News - Is portraying Roy Barnes as a rat going too far?

Yes. Any moron can dress his opponent up like a rat, or a cockroach, or some other revolting creature.

In the movie All the President's Men, reporter Carl Bernstein asks Watergate criminal Donald Segretti what sort of dirty tricks he pulled on behalf of the Nixon White House. "Stuff," Segretti replied. "Stuff with a little wit attached to it." Segretti eventually served a jail sentence for distributing fraudulent campaign material, but he became famous as a master of clever (if illegal) political tricks. Wherever Mr. Segretti may be today, he's certainly not on the payroll of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Sonny Perdue. The Perdue campaign recently released a promotional video that may well set the state record for sophomoric political tastelessness. The amateur-quality video portrays popular incumbent Roy Barnes as a gigantic rat stomping through downtown Atlanta.

Perdue and his low-rent advisers apparently don't have good political memories. In the last statewide campaign, former Fulton Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis suffered humiliating voter backlash after he released TV ads portraying his rival, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, as a drug-addled rehab patient. Taylor stomped Skandalakis like a bug on Election Day, and Skandalakis paid Taylor a $50,000 libel settlement before slithering off into obscurity.

Perdue's video has already caused a damaging backlash. In an unprecedented display of decency, both of his GOP primary rivals, Linda Schrenko and Bill Byrne, have called on Perdue to apologize to Barnes. Perdue refuses, saying his opponents need to get a sense of humor.

But it's Sonny Perdue who needs to get a sense of humor. I'm a big fan of hilarious sophomoric political tricks, but this one isn't humorous. It's stupid.

To be fair, there is a humorous moment in the video — albeit an unintentional one. About halfway through, an unidentified, leather-skinned redneck looks straight in the camera and says, "Guvna Barnes is up there in his big mansion eatin' them filet mid-nons, and he fergits we're out here in the workin' world eatin' pork 'n' beans!"

Now that's funny. But then the video cuts back to the giant rat, and suddenly it's not funny anymore.

Any moron can dress his opponent up like a rat, or a cockroach, or some other revolting creature. What makes political ads effective is intelligent humor — or as Donald Segretti called it, wit.

Maybe ol' Sonny and his campaign advisers should consider giving Mr. Segretti a call.

Jeff Berry's up there in his Alpharetta mansion eatin' pork and beans.??

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