There is a lot of grumbling in the media about the negative tone in the presidential election campaign and even Mitt Romney has complained, although after all he did to trash his Republican rivals during the primary campaign, that seems a bit hypocritical:
Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.
The Romney campaign is particularly upset about this ad:
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz has called it a “a most poisonous campaign,” and Michael Gerson wrote about “Obama’s betrayal”.
Ah, how short memories they have!
Have they already forgotten Sarah Palin’s accusations in the 2008 campaign against the then candidate Obama for “palling around with terrorists??” Or the years of lies about the President’s birth certificate? Or the TV-campaign in the summer of 2004, financed by Texas millionaires supporting George W. Bush’s reelection, which trashed John Kerry’s war record in Vietnam. Those deceitful attacks from a group calling “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” against Kerry’s years as a decorated soldier led to the verb “to swift boat” – that is, to destroy a person’s reputation by false statements.
Here is one of those TV-spots:
The Obama campaign is clearly not going to let happen what took place with Kerry. There is not going to be another “swift boating.” As Dana Milbank, also of the Washington Post, recently wrote:
What’s different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success. They have ceased their traditional response of assuming the fetal position when attacked, and Obama’s campaign is giving as good as it gets — and then some.
So, what’s new in the current election campaign is not that it is tougher or more negative than any previous, but that Obama is not going to let any false Republican charges stand unchallenged. Yes, the campaign is negative and both sides have been guilty of excesses and falsehoods. Of course, that is a shame. We all wish that the candidates instead debate the big issues and America’s future. But that’s not going to happen.
It always frustrated me that the Democrats didn’t fight back enough when attacked, so good that they’re not just rolling over. That said, personal attacks and failure to adequately discuss the bigger issues are equally frustrating.