The 2012 Campaign Is More Petty Than Vicious

| Mon Aug. 20, 2012 1:50 PM EDT

Former Obama spokesman Blake Zeff is tired of the endless carping about 2012 being the nastiest campaign of all time:

The truth? Not only is this not the most negative campaign ever — it’s not the most negative campaign of your lifetime, unless you happen to be three years old.

He makes a pretty good case for this, comparing the various charges and countercharges that filled the airwaves during 2012, 2008, and 2004. And that's without even bothering to examine 2000, when the press corps itself waged a famously vicious campaign against Al Gore; or 1992, which was dominated by charges of philandering and pot smoking and consorting with communists; or 1988, when the GOP hauled out Willie Horton to help beat Michael Dukakis. And I'm only leaving out 1996 because I think I slept through that one. But I'll bet it was pretty vicious too.

Personally, what strikes me most about the 2012 campaign isn't its viciousness per se, but — how do I put this? It's somehow more petty in its viciousness than I remember in the past. Taken as a whole, the 2012 campaign has had plenty of days in the gutter, but the individual attacks all seem pretty forgettable. So far, anyway, there are no Swift boats, no Jeremiah Wright, no inventing the internet, no Gennifer Flowers, no Willie Horton. It's all small potatoes: Obama gutting work requirements for welfare, Romney killing people's wives, etc. Not very edifying stuff, to be sure, and I'm sure it has its intended effect when it's running 24/7 in the entire state of Ohio. Still, there's nothing that will ever make it into the Top Ten annals of dirty campaigning. It's the volume of new crap that's striking, along with the relentless daily invention of obscure new lies, not the viciousness of any one piece of it.

I dunno. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. What does the hive mind think?

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