I am not naïve and I understand politics is a dirty game. I refer to it as the politics of politics; the dirty unseemly underbelly where if you think Richard Hatch, Boston Rob, and Russell Hantz of Survivor fame were mean manipulative operators, you haven’t even stepped into the kiddie pool. It’s a nasty game; it’s MMA with knives and chains and the California cop with the 1 gallon pepper spray can. But still, there needs to be a level of class and respect. Boxing is a vicious sport, but there are still rules.
Nastiness in politics is not a new phenomenon. In 1964 the Johnson campaign ran the infamous mushroom cloud ad against its opponent Barry Goldwater. The ad ran once, and while the ad never mentioned Goldwater, the message was clear: Electing Barry Goldwater could lead to nuclear war. Republican operator Lee Atwater dominated the 80’s in the attack ad world and went as far as to claim that voting for Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988 would lead to rapists and murderers being released from our nation’s prisons. In 2000, the George W. Bush campaign launched a vicious attack on fellow Republican John McCain during the South Carolina campaign implying illegitimate children and mental illness. But that is nothing in comparison to the unwavering attacks on the President; attacks that have nothing to do with policy but are simply unveiled attempts to portray him as unfit to lead. What’s worse, I am not talking about some unemployed overweight wife-beater wearing meth cooker in a Nebraska trailer park with dial up connection for his website. I am talking about the formal and informal leaders of the right. Some of these claims are poorly veiled attacks while some are overt unadulterated venom. Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Malkin, Coulter, Perry, Cheneys, Kristol, Krauthammer, Trump, and the Roberstons have all taken direct and indirect shots at President Obama’s citizenship, religion, patriotism, background, education, and allegiance. This is unheard of and unprecedented; opposition leaders challenging the President’s patriotism? I can think of no charge as serious as questioning the patriotism of the Commander in Chief, and I can’t imagine the toll it has taken on the President and his family. To make matters worse, there has been no dressing down by Republican Party leaders to denounce this denying of his legitimacy and denigration of the office. In my eyes, the Republican Party is permanently marked with this shame, and I mean the whole party.
When I listen to this current crop of Republican candidates, I am struck by their language. To say the future of America is at stake, that the President is importing a European socialism, to imply he has weakened our nation, and to insist he has failed as a leader are not critiques of a President’s policies, they are veiled personal attacks, attacks on the legitimacy of the sitting President. I know it’s about serving the reddest of the red meat to the reddest of the red states. But you know what, just like viewers of Fox News are the country’s most uninformed (backed by scientific data); those that listen to these candidates will believe everything and anything.
Gingrich says he wants to debate the President on the issues. Great, but in Newt’s bloated head, discussing the issues means throwing out terms like social engineering, Kenyan anti-colonialism, food-stamp president. No Newt, issues are the role of government, fiscal management, energy policy, education policy, and the role of America in the new hyper-connected global landscape.
As for Romney, you will get no sympathy from me about getting attacked on the out-of-context comment about firing people. Yes, you got screwed. But you deserved it after your campaign pulled the same stunt with President Obama just weeks prior. Further, your attacks on the President are baseless and even when they have a hint of fact in them, you sully yourself with the, once again, lack of context. Either you believe or don’t believe that President Obama took over a horrendous economic state. If it’s the former, then when you make a claim that more jobs were lost under President Obama in the first 6 months than any other President, you are being disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. Worse you have no moral code.
All the Republicans have are false generalizations when the facts and data support the President. They love to claim the stimulus was a failure, yet John McCain’s own 2008 campaign economic advisor, Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said "The stimulus did exactly what it was intended to do. It was intended to end the recession, jump-start the economy, and it did that.” They will tell you that the President has failed miserably in dealing with Iran and yet we have Europe, Japan, and others working in concert with us to cripple the Ahmadinejad regime WITHOUT empty threats and US invasion. The President was called a socialist when the government stepped in to save the U.S. Auto Industry and in 2011 General Motors led the world in vehicles sales and projections show significant sales increases over the next 3 years.
So please GOP candidates, challenge The President in the issues, like you say you want to. But, you can’t and won’t because it’s a battle of wits and you guys are empty handed. Ultimately, these Republicans rely on the dirtiness and the nastiness because they cannot win on record or achievement. They can’t compete against President Obama on ethical issues, foreign policy, justice, and achievements.
And that sadly weakens America when the opposition has become nothing more than a tabloid.