Setting the Record Straight

September 12, 2008

Politics Now P-A-R

Honorable Politics, R.I.P.

        Back before the ides of March, when it appeared John McCain would be the Republican nominee for president, we noted that if Barack Obama were the nominee that because of his race, he would face a particularly uphill fight this fall. We added, that much depended on whether the Republican nominee “comes up with another Kevin Phillips, Lee Atwater or Karl Rove.”
          It appears to have happened. Kevin Phillips, who began bringing Madison Avenue tactics to presidential campaigns with an angry Richard Nixon run in 1968 and the “Southern strategy,” has changed his stripes. A somewhat repentant Atwater, who honed the craft with shiftiness, distortions, exaggerations, dirty tricks and character assassination, has died and we are left either with Rove or somebody or somebodies who learned the craft as enhanced by him into one that vicious, mean and not ashamed of outright lying or duplicity.

          The Rovian way appears to take the Nazi theory of “repeat a lie often enough and the people will believe it” to a new level, realizing an increasingly ignorant American electorate would never catch up to lies quickly enough for them to have a negative impact before the election.

          The theory appears to be a correct one, having been tested by Rove not only in the previous two elections, but throughout the two junior-Bush terms inside the White House. The more the electorate relies on being spoon-fed the news instead of seeking out information and reading it in print, a method that aids comprehensive, the more effective the Rovian strategy becomes.

          He probably did not anticipate the birth of tabloid-cable, the perceived need by a dying newspaper industry to compete by dumbing down the news and making it more exciting, the fast spread of e-mails and the increased ability to plant false ideas into the media the electorate does rely on.

         The biggest shame of the today’s GOP campaigning strategy, which is old politics with a cruel edge, is that in order to win, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats are beginning to believe they need to get down into the gutter with the competition.
          Another shame is that McCain, a man we knew to be honorable and ethical, if not a person very tolerant of those who disagree with him, appears to have bowed to expediency and decided to take the dirt road to get elected. The selection of Sarah Palin, which could not have been the choice of the McCain we knew, appears to have been a stroke of genius straight out of the Phillips/Atwater/Rove playbook.
          One can excuse some excesses on the part of a presidential candidate. These people have to have tremendous egos to believe they can do the job better than anyone else in a nation of more than 300 million people. And if they believe that, then logic might tell them that if the country is better off with them at the helm, then however they get there is justifiable.
          As an honorable presidential candidate said in 1964, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Today’s mantra would appear to be “extremism in the interest of getting elected is no vice.” But would an honorable person stoop so low?



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