Austin Columnist: Wendy Davis's Despicable Anti-Abbott Ad May Be 'Daring Inspiration'

October 12th, 2014 1:41 PM

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis's "wheelchair" ad, her latest and most despicable attempt to smear her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, got favorable reviews in a Friday evening column by Jonathan Tilove at the Austin American-Statesman.

Tilove, the Statesman's chief political writer, wrote that the ad provoked "debate about whether it was an act of unseemly desperation or daring inspiration," and asserted that it "breathed new life" into Davis's flagging campaign. Cheerlead much, Jonathan? As seen in the excerpts which follow, Tilove also found a prominent University of Texas at Austin prof who characterized the Davis ad as "ballsy" (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Wendy Davis wheelchair ad: desperation or inspiration?

... The Wendy Davis ad, which begins a run in select markets statewide Saturday, was an immediate sensation, leading the Drudge Report — “Wheelchair Ad Roils Race” — and trending No. 1 on Twitter Friday afternoon, provoking debate about whether it was an act of unseemly desperation or daring inspiration. [1]

If nothing else, the ad breathed new life into a gubernatorial campaign that appeared on the verge of being declared all but over [2] even before early voting began, with Attorney General Abbott holding a lead of anywhere between nine and 14 percentage points in recent polls.

“I think it’s ballsy. These guys are already playing rough, and now they’re playing rougher,” said Paul Stekler, chairman of the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas. [3]

Republican and pundit outrage aside, Stekler said it may cheer Democrats who sometimes bemoan the perception that their candidates aren’t tough enough, [3] and who will look at state Sen. Davis, down but not out, delivering a daring blow and think, “She’s a fighter.”

... Zac Petkanas, Davis’ spokesman, said the campaign had shown the ad to focus groups in advance of putting it on the air to powerful effect.

“The reaction has been uniform — they can’t understand how a man who would seek and receive justice for himself after a horrific tragedy and then build a career on denying that same justice to victims and Texans across the state,” [4] Petkanas said. “They simply cannot believe it and it raises serious questions in their minds about whether Greg Abbott is someone they want to see in the governor’s mansion.”

The charges in the ad all reprise attacks the Davis campaign has made in separate previous ads, [5] and they seek to turn Abbott’s saturation advertising — which has attempted to use his disability to his advantage as an emblem of his perseverance, courage and character — against him. With this ad, they hope to strip away the Abbott ads’ inspirational veneer to reveal a sinister backstory. [6]

... With the new ad, the Davis campaign hopes that every time a Texas voter sees an ad with Abbott in a wheelchair, they will now view it differently, skeptically, maybe even angrily.

“The issue Davis brings up is a valid one that shows more about character than it does about disability,” said Bob Kafka, an organizer with ADAPT of Texas, a disability rights group, which, along with other groups, convened a recent candidate forum in Austin on disability issues that Davis attended and Abbott did not. [7] Abbott, though, was the only Republican candidate for statewide office to fill out the group’s questionnaire, Kafka said.


[1] — The debate appear to be only in the far, far-left fever swamp in which Tilove apparently resides. As Jeffrey Meyer at NewsBusters noted this morning, the condemnation of or discomfort with the ad was universal even at MSNBC. One will have to search long and hard among the roughly 120 relevant articles currently at Google News on the topic for favorable commentary. Even a Mother Jones author calls the ad "offensive and nasty and it shouldn't exist."

[2] — If the ad revived Davis's campaign, Tilove is going to have to explain why "the Davis campaign," is "reposting the spot again and again, but softening the introduction each time." It isn't because the ad has generated a reinvigorating vibe.

[3] (tagged twice) — It will surprise absolutely no one that Professor Stekler is a hardened leftist partisan who believes that "(a) Stout Democratic heart (is) required to break GOP grip on Texas," and that Tilove did not disclose Stekler's partisan background and filmmaking topics.

[4] — This appears to be an example of a focus group getting the result it wanted. I wonder if they told participants anything about how Abbott's positions in the cases the Davis ad cited might have been driven by the requirements of Texas law, which as Attorney General Abbott is required to defend?

[5] — Tilove's point is important in the sense that the Davis camp has been hitting at Abbott's disability all along, just not so directly. A January James O'Keefe video exposed Davis campaigners as all too willing to go after and even ridicule Davis's disability.

[6] — Again, if Abbott's positions in the cases involved were driven by the requirements of Texas law, that's not sinister. What would be sinister is an Attorney General choosing which laws he'll enforce and which he'll either ignore or defy.

[7] — Again, it will surprise no one that ADAPT-Texas is a far-left affiliate of a far-left national organization — it believes that the Obama administration and Nancy Pelosi do not sufficiently advocate their positions — and that Tilove didn't disclose its orientation. The group's slogan is monolithic: "NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US!" Abbott's decision not to attend the ADAPT forum may have had something to do with the fact that one of its key topics was "accessible voting and voting rights," hinting that Abbott would have been hammered over Texas's voter-ID requirement at the polls.

It appears that Jonathan Tilove is almost alone in his assessment that there is a "debate" over whether the Davis ad is "unseemly desperation or daring inspiration." The "unseemly desperation" position has near universal support — except, apparently, among a few true believers in Austin.

Cross-posted at