Call it politics as usual.
In April 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama vowed to not run negative ads. He said political times had changed.
“This is a different time. This is an extraordinary time; we’ve got to run a different kind of campaign. So we’re not going to run around doing negative ads,” he said during a rally in Wilson, NC, -- video of which Buzzfeed dredged up yesterday.
But the Obama campaign later proved times really hadn’t changed all that much, airing general-election ads tying Republican nominee John McCain to President George W. Bush’s unpopular policies, at least once accusing McCain and his vice presidential pick Sarah Palin of “lying about their records,” and the list goes on.
Fast forward to the 2012 campaign -- and with Obama locked in a tough re-election bid with Republican Mitt Romney, the president has indicated that not only have times not changed, they have been the same since the nation’s founding.
“When people start saying how terrible it is I just have to remind them that take a look at what Jefferson and Adams had to say about each other, and democracy has always been pretty rough and pretty messy,” he said to a crowd of high-dollar supporters at a New York City hotel Monday night.
That’s not the first time Obama has invoked the Founding Fathers when explaining how rough-and-tumble politics (Obama’s more inclined to use the word “democracy”) have always been.
“Democracy is always a messy business in a big country like this,” he said at an August 2011 town hall in Decorah, IA. “When you listen to what the Federalists said about the anti-Federalists and the names that Jefferson called Hamilton and back and forth -- I mean, those guys were tough. Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me.”
That's not to mention that Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. PBS's American Experience noted:
"Hamilton was a Federalist. Burr was a Republican. The men clashed repeatedly in the political arena. The first major skirmish was in 1791, when Burr successfully captured a United States Senate seat from Philip Schuyler, Hamilton's powerful father-in-law. Hamilton, then Treasury secretary, would have counted on Schuyler to support his policies. When Burr won the election, Hamilton fumed."
Obama, Romney, and outside groups have run attack ad after attack ad this cycle. In addition to tearing each other down, both candidates have seen their negative ratings increase, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll.
No matter how much Obama in 2008 may have wanted things to change -- or even thought they would, it’s remarkable how much he now acknowledges they have, in fact, stayed very much the same.
A sampling of attack ads from both sides: