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Anyone looking for an edge in what promises to be a bitterly contested election year should consider the strategy of Chris Monzel, a Cincinnati city councilman who this week apologized for "accidentally" classifying Rip Torn as a sexual predator during his successful 2007 reelection campaign. Apparently the incumbent's staff determined his tough-on-crime message would be best evinced by plastering a mug shot in one of its television commercials, which led to trolling the celebrity photos archived at The Smoking Gun. The rest is history — misbegotten, completely stupefying history:

In the ad, Monzel had a black bar put over Torn's eyes before using the picture. The goal, he said, was to show a generic criminal. But someone still was able to identify the actor. Monzel said he pulled the ad from local television and cable as soon as he was told Torn had been identified. ...

"It was briefly put out there," he said of the photo in the campaign ad. "We had used a mug-shot image and altered it so you couldn't really tell who it was."

Alas, Torn's camp fired off a letter demanding an apology that would cite, among other things, his years of military service and numerous acting awards. Months later, Monzel and Torn reached an accord resulting in Tuesday's contrite ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer: "That commercial discussed, in part, my efforts to get sexual predators off the streets. ... I wish to correct any implication that Mr. Torn has ever had any involvement in the conduct discussed in the commercial, and I apologize to Mr. Torn for any distress this may have caused him." However, we also hear Monzel privately declined to apologize for using Torn's likeness in his crusade to get hammer-wielding, Norman Mailer-biting character actors off the streets, so don't think for a second that this is over.