The most odious political advertisement of the post-9/11 era was run by Saxby Chambliss against triple-amputee Vietnam veteran incumbent Max Cleland in the 2002 cycle. Almost universally condemned by the polite political class, including now SecDef-designate Chuck Hagel and then-to-be GOP presidential nominee John McCain, the ad morphed Senator Cleland’s face into that of Osama bin Laden, only one year from the attacks on The Homeland.
That a chickenhawk like Chambliss could run an ad like this one offended just about everybody, although it worked: Chambliss won the seat in 2002′s swirling anti-terror fever election, when George Bush put war and “national security” on the midterm ballot.
The “basis” for the ad, if it can be said to have one, was that Senator Cleland was trying to craft employee protections into the emerging Department of Homeland Security, thus (allegedly) holding up the birth of the agency that would protect us from The Tall Man and his planet-wide evil terror operatives.
And now Chambliss has announced, or confided in Georgia’s governor who has announced it for him, that he will retire after two terms in the US Senate. Which is, in itself, reason for celebration, notwithstanding Chambliss’s possible GOP successors:
Two far-right state Republicans have already declared their intention to run for Chambliss’ seat, Roswell’s U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R) and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens), who infamously declared in 2012 that evolution, quantum physics and other established scientific facts are “lies from the pit of Hell.” Broun announced on Tuesday that he was thinking of mounting a primary challenge against Chambliss, who has angered conservatives by participating in the “Gang of Six” effort to broker a budget deal in late 2012.
This is Georgia so the likelihood is that the GOP nominee will be elected Senator. But that was the conventional wisdom in both Missouri and Indiana this past cycle, and we know how those races turned out: with Democrats holding (Missouri/McCaskill) or flipping (Indiana/Donnelly) seats for unlikely Democratic victories. Could that happen in Georgia with a Democratic nominee attractive to the Obama coalition? Last time, Chambliss had to run-off to keep his seat, so it’s not a GOP lock.
PS: YouTube commenters note that this ad is not the original version with triple-amputee Cleland’s face morphing into OBL’s; apparently that one’s been pretty well scrubbed. But the point remains the same: it was a dastardly smear that offended Georgians (Zell Miller criticized the ad) and GOPs alike.