Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Attack Politics

I've watched with interest over the past couple weeks as the media follows the campaigns and their statements. Their take on the issue seems to involve making some sort of balance out of the matter. The general theme seems to be that both campaigns are making attack statements; which is true as far as it goes.

The Obama campaign is hitting the line that McCain is Bush III and that he doesn't have a consistent stance. There is enough truth in this to pass the smell test, certainly exaggeration and cherry picking is involved, but within the range expected by voters. The McCain campaign has run with the same types of statement, although the truth content has been demonstrated to be low, and lower than voters generally accept. In this respect the media is quite correct in noting dual negativity, and correct in noting that Obama's volume exceeds McCain's.

Obama has stated quite baldly that the McCain camp has lied, and they have quite baldly done so. This is pretty personal and this is where the actual matter becomes messy and outside the media's balance. The statements about lies were laid onto specific statements which happen to have been exactly that - lies. If voters choose to carry that onto the candidate's character, they are free to do so. The contrast with the McCain campaign's rhetoric in regard to Obama's character is complete. The McCain object is to create doubt and fear with direct attacks on Obama's character, with an undercurrent of fear and race. This is the attack subset of character assassination, it asks voters to dislike a person, not policy or ideology.

I do dislike the McCain campaign, personally, and this is on the basis of their behavior in the personal regard. I strongly disagree with their politics and whatever their ideology is ( a label for it escapes me) but that is a different matter. It is personal enough that I would neither shake McCain's hand nor be cordial in the unlikely event we had close contact. He has become the sort of character I detest. Awhile ago that would not have been the case, I'd have been cordial and quite willing to talk politics - that doesn't mean he'd have liked it a lot. I consider these people to be colleagues in public service, whatever political disagreements exist, right up until they demonstrate a set of character flaws I cannot excuse or avoid.

I don't want Gordon Smith as my Senator and will work to get him out and replace him with Jeff Merkley. Gordon has pushed up against my limits with his ads, but my primary objection to him is his record and ideology. Some of my friends with similar views to mine may find that odd, but I am fairly forgiving of electoral necessity in others. I am willing to be careful in how I state things, but I won't mislead, but that is a personal decision - politically relevant to myself only. I would appreciate and state my appreciation for candidates who follow a similar line. In fact, Jeff Merkely gets my endorsement not only for is ideology and policy ideas, but also for the type of character he has demonstrated. Even if Jeff had followed Gordon's lead, I'd have backed him over Gordon, but with less pleasure. That is a simple matter of what is best for Oregon and the US.

You don't throw the laundry detergent through the window because it says, "New and Improved," on the bottle. It still works better than beating the clothes on a rock even as you understand that advertising isn't Truth. People give me grief for being Democratic, a partisan. I am admittedly that because the Democratic Party, for all its failings, has managed to be better than beating clothes on a rock.

The media balance on this is utter nonsense. You cannot lump apples and oranges together as fruits and maintain that they are the same thing in taste and texture or that disliking one means disliking the other. This is not balance, it is not fairness, it an illogical and politically driven theme. It is a statement on what ails the media and our public discourse. If it is raining it makes little sense to give credence to someone who says it isn't because they don't like it and anyone who takes that seriously is going to find themselves all wet.

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