Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Tell a Lie?

Today may mark the first and only time in history that Karl Rove and I agree on something. In a recent interview with Fox News, Rove stated that "McCain has gone in some of his ads one step too far...and sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100 percent truth test."    

I find several aspects of this development quite interesting. First, let me put it in writing that I do agree with Rove. Several recent ads that have been put out by McCain have been quite nasty and border on actual slander.    

A recent example is an ad, released in areas with high latino populations, that stated that Obama voted against immigration reform and was instrumental in stalling the creation of any guest worker program or a path to citizenship. The problem with this ad, of course, is that Obama and McCain actually worked together on this bill, each voting to end the filibuster in the senate; in fact, they voted identically on the procedural and final passage votes.    

All political ads lie to some extent, and to pretend that Obama hasn't produced negative ads either would be a mischaracterization. However, Obama has not been foolish enough to create an ad that states a lie that can easily be verified and shown to be untrue. What is more startling, however, is when one examines where the nastiest attack ads are being run, it is pretty clear that the demographic groups that are being targeted are those containing individuals who are statistically on the lower end of the income and education scales.    

This tactic is about as low as it gets as it amounts to directly lying to confuse people who will not be able to gather complete information about the candidates due to limitations regarding time, resources, and language ability. Candidates launch such attacks because they can be very effective since these voters are not constantly tuning in to see what is occurring in the campaign, and reserach has shown that first impressions of a candidate are very important in deciding who to vote for among voters with lesser educations.    

The decision to go negative is not a surprise, but the manner in which is has occurred is highly questionable. It raises questions about McCain's ethics that I myself would not have thought possible. It is clear though that the straight-talking express has broken down.    

I think it is silly to argue that campaigns should always be positive; that’s not how the world works, and it isn't how campaigns are won. We may all hate negative ads, but they are really effective. I don't deplore McCain's choice to go negative, but the degree to which he has done so has the potential to backfire in a big way. 


Anonymous said...

It seems the Republican Party likes to use below-the-belt tactics (ie Swift Boat Theory in Bush vs. Kerry) that as you correctly point out, poor and middle-class voters don't have the time or resources to check out. My wish would be for a world where lies and negative campaigning would backfire every time.

R.P. McMurphyDBB said...

I do as well. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but I will keep a look out. Tune in for updates.