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Keep presidential attacks on policy, not personal, please

Thursday, October 16, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:38 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if the world is watching 5-year-olds run for U.S. president. They seem to have the "he said," "no, he said" routine down pat.  Of course "she" has "he lied" down perfect, acting like the 4-year-old baby sister.  Ah, American politics at its "best," you betcha.

Negative campaigning is nothing new.  Students of American history look to the elections of 1792, 1796 and 1800 to see how nasty the process can get.  They look to the Pamphlet Wars of 1804, with name calling and the creation of false stories that came close to libel.  Hamilton and Jefferson leveled accusations at each other for nearly 20 years that neither could prove or, if provable, where so bizarre that they bordered on slander.  Today, those stories would be found in the grocery store tabloids.

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Writing in MyFoxStL.com, I asked if the insults from the extreme conservatives were increasing.  The general response was "yes," though some thought the liberals were as much to blame.  Today, I believe the extreme conservatives have realized they are losing ground and are resorting to personal attacks on Sen. Barack Obama.  They have nothing else.  

I found a wonderful comic on Slate.com last week and sent it to friends and family.  The cartoon showed "Failed Policies" in bold black letters covered in Gov. Sarah Palin red "lipstick" Palinisms: "Gotcha," "You betcha" and alike. If Palin ever leaves politics, political cartoonists will surely suffer a drought.

Manyliberals and conservatives alike saw the joke and replied accordingly.  But one e-mail was angering, proudly exclaiming that Obama was in some way aligned with terrorists.  That somehow Obama was associated with Bin Laden or that terrorists support Obama for presidency.  I have seen these before, but they are questioning the senator's patriotism and loyalty to the United States, not his policies.  

Scarier are the audiences at Palin and Sen. John McCain rallies and volunteers who walk door to door, calling Obama a "liar" and a "traitor" without proof or protest by the Republican candidates, receiving encouragement from Palin and smiles from McCain.  It was only during a town hall style format that McCain corrected those who called Obama a traitor to this country or corrected a participant when she called the senator from Illinois an Arab.

Obama thanked McCain for correcting these wrongs.

Conservative speakers are using Obama's middle name, Hussein, as a scare tactic, claiming it to be Muslim, and, therefore, Obama must be, as one speaker put it, "one of them." McCain even referred to Mr. Obama as "that one" in the Oct. 9 debate.  How much more insulting can one be?  If this were 1800, Obama may have challenged McCain to a duel to save his honor. 

However, even though McCain "tells" his supporters not to engage in lies and violent language, Karen Tumulty wrote for Time.com that volunteers were being encouraged to use negative campaign talking points: that Obama is somehow connected with Bin Laden, that Obama "won't salute the American flag" and that Obama was not born in America. These are not policy attacks, they are personal.  

Obama was born in Hawaii.  McCain was born in a Panama Canal Zone occupied by the U.S.

We will disagree on application of oversight policy. We will disagree on application and use of military force. We will disagree on taxation and fiscal policy. But when race, religion or national origin becomes factors in a candidate's loyalty, patriotism and ability to lead, that is wrong. When the opposing candidate does nothing to stop such outlandish attacks, he or she has lost my, and I hope your, admiration and consideration of candidacy.

My country should be led only by grown-ups, not 5-year-olds seeking unity through division and name calling. Mr. McCain, Ms. Palin, you have lost my respect and my vote.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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Comments

Mike Clutts November 10, 2008 | 10:32 a.m.

I agree with you article as far as I am sick and tired of the antics pulled by politicians. But we must remember it is a two way street. The Dems have participated in the negative he said, she said nonsense as much as the republicans have. To suggest that somehow Obama has been conducting a campaign that hasn't participated in such recklessness is coming across as a biased opinion. Obama has done nothing to squelch the negative ads coming from his side as well as McCain. I for one wish we could pass a law that prohibits any of the negative crap we see and mandate that the candidates only campaign about issues and not what or who each candidate has associated with or said. Lets talk about the issues and we will all be better off.

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