It was reported yesterday that Tony Schwartz, the creator of the infamous 1964 “Daisy” TV spot — the first ad to famously and notoriously trash a political contender (i.e., Barry Goldwater) based on slimey innuendo — has died at age 84. You could say that Schwartz was the Godfather of the televised smear ad and all the scumbucket political ads that followed in its wake — the Lee Atwater- Willie Horton ad, the 3 am phone call ad from the Hillary Clinton campaign, etc. The truth is that if it hadn’t been Schwartz it would have been somebody else.

Hired by the Lyndon Johnson campaign, Schwartz “collaborated with a team from the Doyle Dean Bernbach ad agency to create the spot featuring a little girl counting aloud as she removed the petals of a daisy,” says an AP obit by Deepti Hajela.
“The scene then changed into a countdown to an atomic blast. Johnson did the voiceover with the line, ‘We must either love each other, or we must die’ — a paraphrase of a famous W.H. Auden poem written to mark the start of World War II.
“The ad made no mention of Goldwater, Johnson’s Republican opponent, but the implication was clear. After public criticism, it was withdrawn. The spot has been credited with ushering in an era of negative political ads.
Bill Geerhart, who runs a website called CONELRAD, a Cold War pop culture site, said the ad was a dramatic departure from the previous election cycle. ‘It’s light years ahead of that,’ he said.”