In this photo reviewed by the U.S. military, the sun rises above Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

RNC fearmongering devolves into self-parody

A couple of weeks ago, there were reports about Obama administration officials looking for new ways to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay – a goal endorsed by U.S. military leaders and which used to enjoy at least some bipartisan support. 
Soon after, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), exhibiting a child-like understanding of public affairs, argued that it would be “dangerous” to close the Guantanamo Bay prison because “Islamic jihadists are beheading Americans.” By any fair measure, it was a deeply foolish response and a reminder that Boehner just doesn’t approach his responsibilities with enough seriousness.
What we did not know until yesterday, however, is that this shameless demagoguery would become the basis for the Republican National Committee’s closing 2014 argument. Reince Priebus’ RNC unveiled this new ad yesterday, which I can assure you is not intended to be a parody.
“ISIS gaining ground. Terrorists committing mass murder. Ebola inside the U.S. Americans alarmed about national security. What’s President Obama doing? Making plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country…. November 4th, Obama’s policies are on the ballot. Vote to keep terrorists off U.S. soil. Vote Republican.”
According to a press statement, this message will air this week in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Virginia.
Remember, with just seven days to go until Election Day, the RNC could choose any issue it wishes as a closing argument. Priebus & Co. have gone with … Guantanamo.
Ads like these, which show genuine contempt for voters’ intelligence, might very well work. It’s quite possible the focus groups loved it and if Republican candidates fare well next week, as appears likely, the RNC may see its ridiculous ad as the message that helped seal the deal.
But for those still capable of reason, it’s hard not to see ads like these as a national embarrassment.
There’s just no defense for a major political party treating Americans like easily terrified fools. To hear the RNC tell it, the president is ignoring public health and national security to focus on closing the facility known as “Gitmo.” It’s hard to imagine anyone actually believing such garbage, but it’s the RNC’s closing argument.
Everything about the ad is just … ugly. It assumes we’re incapable of understanding that putting terrorists on trial and locking them up is something Americans have done for generations. It assumes Americans will see a bunch of scary images and quickly turn to the party burdened by one national security debacle after another. It assumes voters are so unsophisticated, the electorate will think about Ebola and ISIS, mindlessly connect this to Guantanamo for reasons that defy comprehension, ignore actual current events, and vote accordingly.
I realize that demagoguery is a tried and true campaign tactic, and that the politics of fear – even mindless, irrational panic – can sometimes be a reliable substitute for substance. But does the Republican National Committee have to be so lazy about it? Couldn’t the party have at least considered an ad that treats Americans with a little respect?