Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other’s face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?
Well, this has been a tough campaign. It’s been a very tough campaign.
Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough.
(Unsurprisingly, neither one of them really answered the question.)
So “tough” is a euphemism for “full of mud-slinging”. I think that just sounds silly. Negative campaigning is full of cheap shots, and that doesn’t qualify as tough.
And unfortunately, Obama is right: our expectations for presidential campaigns - and political campaigns in general - are low.
We’re starting to see where low standards will lead. Congressman John Lewis has illustrated this with an extreme example. Many people, especially presidential candidates, have criticized him for going too far. Personally I think the comparison he makes is actually valid and important. Negative campaigning is a slippery slope, and the bottom of that slope is a horrible place to be.
Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse. … George Wallace … created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. … As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.
It is true that on a few occasions John McCain (but not Sarah Palin as for as I am aware) has taken a moment to insist on more civility while his followers sometimes literally call for Obama’s head, but it is too little too late, and it contradicts most of the other things he says about his opponent. You say that we don’t know who “the real” Obama is, that he “pals around with terrorists”, but really we shouldn’t be afraid of him becoming president? How are your supporters supposed to reconcile those statements?
Rather than take responsibility for creating an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hate, McCain tries to distract us with counterattacks. He wants John Lewis’ remarks denounced, but when his own statements are denounced he feigns innocence. Meanwhile he’s still slipping down that slope.
It’s insulting to me that I’m supposed to accept this behavior, and actually want these qualities in a president. Just like I’m insulted every time a politician talks about his opponent’s voting record. Look, he voted for something bad! He voted against something good! And I’m supposed to believe it’s all neatly black and white. Then it turns out the “good” bill was fatally flawed, or that this outraged politician actually voted the same way as the opponent he criticizes.
When a politician - any politician - talks voting records, I ignore what he or she is trying to imply about his opponent, and instead look at what it says about the speaker. And oh so rarely is that a complimentary view.