Monday, October 6, 2008

The Straight Talk Express

I find it odd that the media are talking about how both presidential candidates are hurling insults and escalating negativity. NPR's headline tonight says:

White House Rivals Both Adopt a Darker Tone

Attack ads and charges are flying in both directions. While Sarah Palin says Barack Obama "pals around" with terrorists, the Obama campaign is calling John McCain "out of touch."

Really? The claim that both candidates are going negative is ostensibly true, but it's not very accurate in terms of cause-and-effect. Let's compare charges:

1) Obama is friendly with terrorists.

2) McCain is "out of touch."

Which of these seems most like "adopting a darker tone?"

The McCain charge is an outrageous blast of fear-mongering which simply cannot go unanswered. And insofar as the charge is calculated to hit home with the segment of the population that is vulnerable to fearmongering, sensible political strategy says one must meet fire with fire (something Obama was slow to do against Hillary Clinton's negative attacks, and it hurt him at the time).

Campaigns go negative because the tactic works, at least for a certain slice of the voting pie. We all claim to hate it, but we don't hate it enough to punish the fearmonger or mudslinger. (Ergo: we get exactly the campaign we deserve.)

Luckily, Obama does not have to descend into the absurd as the McCain camp has done. He need only cite McCain's Keating Five association. The Keating Five charge is a substantial and factual one. Whereas Obama was eight years old while Bill Ayers (then 25) was doing his Weatherman mischief, and he then had the bad taste to serve on the board of an anti-poverty group with now-Distinguished Professor Ayers, McCain was cited for "poor judgment" by a Senate Ethics Committee probe--he has admitted as much--and it apparently was only some deft maneuvering that kept him out of prison.

So I say, fine, let the gloves come off. McCain was over 50 years old when he was being plied with favors and cash by Charles Keating in exchange for his help in obstructing regulators in their oversight of Lincoln Savings and Loan, which subsequently collapsed and cost the federal government $2 billion and many people their life savings. (Where have we heard this tune lately?) It seems worth repeating that the mess we're in right now stems in large part from exactly the actions for which Keating & Co. faced the fire: the machinations of the wealthy to manipulate the banking system, and hobble government oversight of it, to make themselves wealthier.

If the charges against Obama are absurd, at least they're being hurled by someone who believes humans and dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time. There's a balance there. And she's smearing to protect a man with the blood of a slain economy on his hands (among other things).

What a team.

So the charges that McCain is making against Obama are, in fact, properly leveled at himself: his efforts to deregulate and hobble government oversight have led to immense and very tangible suffering by millions of people in this country and abroad, and we'll be digging ourselves out of his messes for years to come.

1 comment:

shrimplate said...

Political mud is so weird. It only sticks to those on which it does not belong.