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At a conference on Tuesday, "Today Show" host Matt Lauer made an earnest request to California's gubernatorial candidates: stop airing negative campaign ads. The crowd erupted in cheers, as Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown took a few moments to consider. When the clapping subsided, Lauer persisted:


You've got plenty of positive ads... you would pull your negative ads, replace them with positive ads and talk to the surrogate groups as well and express that... you want only positive messages out there to give California voters a break.

In the end, Brown agreed and Whitman sort of agreed, saying she'd stop airing ads that attacked Brown personally but issue-based ads would continue. In any event, the focus in the blogosphere has shifted from the candidate's answers to Lauer's request—or as some call it "The Lauer Decree." For many, Lauer's words were a bit too Pollyanna-esque :

  • Give Me a Break, Lauer  "Does anyone believe his stunt was motivated by anything other than Olympian self-regard?" begins Josh Green of The Atlantic. "Negative ads serve a useful purpose. They draw distinctions that help people who don't spend all day watching PBS and poring over policy papers make decisions about who to vote for. Yes, yes, some are crass. So what? Voters are grown up enough to punish candidates who overdo it. If you can't stand the televised assault, there's always Netflix. What's far more grating, though, is Lauer's affectation, his presumption to being the Great Healer who will cleanse our coarsened political culture... If I were Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, I'd join hands across the great partisan divide, pool my vast resources, and cut a really nasty ad attacking Matt Lauer."
  • This Was a Cheap 'Stunt,' writes Joe Garofoli at The San Francisco Chronicle:

Two words for you, Matt: Pander bear. You're playing to the house.

Yes, everybody hates "negative" ads. Especially now, when people fear turning on the TV because they're slithering everywhere.

But whatever you think of these two candidates, they've invested millions (and millions and millions) and months/years of their lives in this campaign. To expect them to change the course of their campaign in the LAST SIX DAYS because some TV dude parachuted into town from NYC and told them to do so.... is a bit too precious. Sorry. It reeks of TV Stunt.

  • Where Does Lauer Get Off? echoes John Pitney at National Review:

First, why is a reporter telling candidates what they should or should not talk about? Second, would compliance with the Lauer Decree have changed anything? After all, many of the attack ads against Whitman have come from the unions, not the Brown campaign itself. Third, what’s wrong with critical ads in the first place? As political scientist John Geer has demonstrated, negative spots tend to be more substantive and informative than positive ones.

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