An article in The Wall Street Journal last week pointed out parallels between the race for the presidency and that for New York’s First Congressional District. The core of its observation was that in both contests centrist incumbents are pitted against wildly wealthy challengers.
In the First District race as in the contest for the presidency, the candidates are intelligent men with differing views on the role of government and the direction of the country. This should make for substantive exchanges. Instead, Mitt Romney’s campaign charges that President Obama has not done enough to help the economy, while the Democratic refrain is that Republican policies would destroy Medicare and the middle class. In the First Congressional District, mailboxes, radio stations, and television channels are spilling over with such assaults as Mr. Bishop’s claim that Mr. Altschuler would outsource the American work force and Mr. Altschuler’s denigrating Mr. Bishop as merely a “career politician.”
And the campaign is getting worse in a hurry, particularly in an effort on behalf of Mr. Altschuler by an anonymously funded political action committee founded by George W. Bush and Karl Rove. According to a Politico report from last week, Crossroads GPS, a conservative political action committee that is not required to disclose its donors, is making the Bishop-Altschuler race the first of its 2012 Congressional targets. The PAC’s first salvo is a television ad repeating allegations that Mr. Bishop acted improperly in seeking fireworks permits for a constituent who was later solicited by his daughter for a campaign donation. The ad also repeatedly uses a circular graphic that appears to be the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
The use of gun-sight imagery is worse than unfortunate, and has no place in reasonable political campaigns. While Mr. Altschuler may not have personally signed off on the ad — given the supposed firewall between Super PACs and the candidates they support — he should disavow it and demand its retraction. It seems unlikely that Crossroads GPS might have forgotten that less than two years ago Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot by a mentally disturbed man outside an Arizona supermarket and that, in the aftermath of the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee was decried for its use of gun-sight imagery in “targeting” 20 House Democrats in the previous November’s election, including Ms. Giffords.
For a country as saturated with guns and gun violence, and whose commitment to the treatment of the mentally ill is demonstrably inadequate, the use of such images in political campaigns is wholly irresponsible. If Mr. Altschuler fails to demand that the Crossroads GPS ads putting his opponent in the line of fire be removed from circulation, one can only conclude that he is a candidate willing to say or do whatever it takes to win.