Bernie Sanders has made a point of playing above the fray in his television advertising over the years. So when his campaign on Tuesday unveiled Bernie's first attack ad since the ugly 1990 contest with then Rep. Peter Smith, R-Vt., it got everyone's attention.
Here's what Sanders had to say about Rich Tarrant's ads alleging Sanders was soft on drug dealers and child pornographers.
"I'm Bernie Sanders and I approved this message because dishonest ads should not be part of Vermont politics. For months my opponent Rich tarrant has been spending millions telling us about himself. Well, it's his money and he can spend it if he wants to. But he has no right to distort my record or what I stand for. I can't match his money ad for ad. But I'll let the truth speak for itself. I trust you to use your good judgment. Please go to my website and check the facts. [www.bernie.org] Thanks for listening."
Not exactly ruthless as "attack" ads go, but effective.
That would also describe the 1990 ad Sanders made late in the campaign against Smith, who had accused Bernie of being a tax dodger, cozy with Communists and nauseated in 1960 by the election of John F. Kennedy.
Here's the text from the 1990 ad, issued just a week before Election Day.
"There are enormous challenges facing our country -- health care, the growing gap between rich and poor, the crisis of our environment. The list is a long one. It saddens me that my opponent, finding himself behind in the polls, is now resorting to the most negative and dishonest television advertising in 1990 this state has ever seen ... I've run a positive and honest campaign, and that's the way I'll represent you in Congress."
Sounds a bit like the one Sanders released Tuesday, doesn't it. BTW, the 1990 ad nailed Smith, but good. Sanders had a single-digit lead in the polls when the ad was released, but won a week later by 16 percentage points.