Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Sewer Madness

One has admitted to trying drugs when he was a youth, attended a church where the head pastor had spouted hate-filled rhetoric, and attended charity board meetings and a fundraiser at the home of a person -- now a professor whose associates include the mayor of Chicago -- who did horrific things 40 years ago.

One was considered a hell raiser when he was young, left his first wife after she had a car accident that left her disfigured and coping with disabilities and married a younger, richer woman, and was later caught up in a savings and loan scandal.

Another cheated on his wife with, according to media reports, several women, and tried to get out of being sent to fight in Vietnam when he was a college student.

Another used to drink too much alcohol, had a hell raiser past and had his military service in Vietnam was questioned.

The aforementioned men -- Barack Obama, John McCain, Bill Clinton and George Bush -- have flaws. We all have flaws. And histories. And lessons learned. Name a person who doesn't have some kind of story in his or her past that raises eyebrows or never made some bad decisions, and I'll show you someone who hasn't lived life or gleaned any wisdome from it. People grow and evolve and are distinctly imperfect. Expecting people, especially our elected officials, to have flawless lives is unreasonable and inadvisable (who wants someone holding office who's never learned from her mistakes?).

As we enter the last month of the presidential campaign, the sewage has starting flooding the airwaves in earnest. The U.S. and world economies are in crisis. People's confidence has been shaken as they worry about whether they'll still have their jobs by Christmas and whether they'll be able to pay for their retirement. Meanwhile, the presidential campaigns -- for two men who, under normal circumstances, are honorable people with interesting life stories -- have turned negative because negative sells and sways voters. Back when I was doing graduate work in political science in D.C., I took a course on campaign management run by veterans of several major political campaigns. When we came to the unit on campaign advertising, the message was loud and clear: Negative works.

That doesn't mean, however, that we, the voters, have to like the big nasty turn this presidential campaign has taken. Not from McCain. Not from Obama. Words and phrases like "liar," "pal around with terrorists" and "dishonorable" shouldn't be thrown into the mix at a time when the economy is tanking, our country is at war on two fronts and some of the folks at AIG who received $85 billion from the taxpayers in an attempt to help jump-start the economy, days after getting federal approval, blew $440,000 on a week-long retreat "at a luxury resort and spa," spending $150,000 on meals and $23,000 on spa services, according to ABC News. This, as ordinary New Englanders are talking about how they'll pile on blankets and sweaters this winter and not turn on the heat often because home heating oil is so expensive.

Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who, because of the tightening of credit right now, is asking the federal government for an emergency loan to keep his state afloat -- has had enough. "Look at what the presidential campaign has reduced down to: They now are accusing each other of things that have nothing to do with the economy, that have nothing to do with health care, that have nothing to do with the environment, that have nothing to do with, you know, how we deal with foreign countries," Schwarzenegger said, according to the Associated Press.

Over on The View -- which is quickly devolving from smart, quirky, real gal commentary to a caricature -- Barbara Walters has been likewise pleading for civility, both in the campaign and during her own show's "Hot Topics" discussion.

McCain and Obama are better than the campaigns they're running in these last days of the presidential race. The win-at-all-costs political consultants are doing us no favors by taking their clients' campaigns and running them through the gutter in order to get to the White House. But I suppose, the campaign team that wins in the end will feel as though all the mud-slinging was worth it. For the rest of Americans who are witnessing character assassination, smears involving old scandals that have no relevance to voters' lives today or on what kind of job either man will do in office, they are the ones who lose.

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