Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why the mudslinging is bad for everyone

Because it will make it hard for the next president to govern. Whoever it is. If Obama is elected, roughly half the country will think he's a Muslim terrorist Manchurian Candidate. If McCain is elected, roughly half will think he's a cynical pol who gave up his honor and has an extremist novice waiting in the wings.

After all, what we really want in this election is to find people who will govern well. We desperately need it. But both campaigns have engaged in a political process that will make this more difficult.

Yes, I do think both candidates are responsible. I lay most of the blame on McCain, because of the viciousness of the personal attacks, the degree with which they distort or disregard the truth, and the timing of the attacks (coming earlier and more often). But I also think Obama has made a mistake by going after McCain on Keating. It allows media like the NYT to say that Obama has "responded in kind," painting both politicians as equal mudslingers. I think it would be more effective for Obama, and more consistent with his core message, to criticize McCain strictly on the issues, and keep his overall message positive. I think Obama wins if he stays on the high road. Of course he has to address the smears from the other side, but he would best do this by expressing disappointment with McCain and faith in the American voter. Something like, "John, I know you're down in the polls and you're looking for a knockout strategy, but why would you insult the voters' intelligence by spreading baseless smears about me? Do you really want your supporters yelling out 'traitor' and 'terrorist' and 'kill him' during your campaign events? Do you really think that will work?"

No comments: