This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Politics of Character Assassination

One of my wing-nut law school compadres started posting "Obama is a terrorist because he associates with them" messages on Facebook tonight. I quickly smacked him down for being defamatory and inflammatory. But it looks like the next month is going to be full of nasty attack ads aimed at who pals around with whom. What a ridiculous distraction from what actually matters.

Everyone has shady associates, even the most moral and ethical people. Sometimes you just don't know who will turn out to be scum. I certainly have had my fair share. A guy I went to high school with, who I invited to various parties I had in college, got busted for breaking into a mutual friend's parents' house, cleaned out the place and stole his dad's sports car. It was sad, he was an entertaining guy. Of course, I stopped inviting him to parties after that. (Mostly because he was incarcerated.) And of course, I'm in law school. I can't wait to find out over the next decade who ends up disbarred or in jail from our class. Probably with someone I'm hugging and smiling big at the camera, in a photo immortalized on the internet. That certainly doesn't mean I condone, you know, burglary, or any other illegal or unethical action. But guilt by association is just silly. Sometimes you just don't know people as well as you think you do. And sometimes, you need to work with people, even though you might find their past activities repulsive. I've certainly had a few of those as well. All the while trying to cover my ass to avoid getting caught up in their messes. Ugh.

I don't think Obama's past ties to Ayers, or McCain's friendship with G. Gordon Liddy, is even worth mentioning. It's just not important. Nor is Obama's racist pastor, nor is Palin's witchcraft-denouncing preacher. I love our priest. He baptized me, he married Husband and I, and he baptized Cora. But if I were running for office, I sure as hell wouldn't want people thinking I agree with all of the things my priest says. (First, the man can't even pronounce my name correctly. Second, he gives rambling homilies about going to a political protest and getting detained by the Feds. Seriously.)

Even the Keating scandal is irrelevant. It happened almost 20 years ago, it was investigated, McCain was scolded for his part, but ultimately, that's it. It showed poor judgment, yes. Since he hasn't done anything like that in the past two decades, hopefully he's learned from his mistakes. Don't go to bat for shady friends. It's a good rule to live by.

All politicians have some sort of ties to lobbyists or corporations or some special interests, whether it's them personally, or staff members, or political friends, or whatever. No one's completely clean. But I personally think Obama's fundraising efforts throughout his campaign have been a refreshing change and an attempt to break away from a lot of those ties. No, that alone isn't going to magically change Washington, but it's a nice little start. And certainly his campaign has energized people. People like me who, although very interested in politics and like to stay informed, have never worked for a campaign before, or even donated money. As I've said before, I first fell in love with his foreign policy positions. With the failures of the past eight years, it was a refreshing change.

There are things about candidates' character that do matter. Their ability to work with others, to listen to other viewpoints besides their own, to act rationally and calmly under pressure, to make sound decisions based on the best intelligence available. Those are also things we've been lacking the last eight years. But all of this character assassination nonsense is getting out of control. It's nothing more than a distraction from the things that really matter, which is the economic crisis. No jobs, no health care, people losing their homes, banks collapsing. But oh, let's harp on some crazy pastor's racist ramblings, and let's hit back with a two-decade-old scandal.

If someone can prove that one of the candidates has done something clearly unethical or illegal, than that's relevant. Otherwise, I wish they'd talk less about how the other candidate is friends with someone who sucks, and more about why they personally don't suck.

Shame on McCain and Palin for turning such an important election into a slime-fest, and shame on Obama for not taking the high road and bringing the focus back to the issues.


Cee said...

People who make stupid comments about Obama being a terrorist make me so mad! So many ignorant people out there! My uncle thought Obama was a muslim and kept slamming him for that- I mean so what if he was a muslim but at least get your facts straight!

Lol, I love the image of someone your hugging in a photo turning out to be a bad apple. I wonder how many people in our graduating class will become disbarred for doing something really awful...

HeroicLife said...

In a populist democracy, every group that participates in the political system is a “special interest”, with the incentive and the possibility of using the political system to extract benefits for its members at the expense of other groups. The welfare and regulatory systems are two common means of coercively redistributing property and conferring monopoly benefits to various groups. Everyone in a democracy is constantly on the defensive against the possibility of organized groups extracting benefits from him, and on the offensive attempting to use the coercive power of the state to extract benefits from others.

The existence of special interests is just a symptom of the disease: the growth of government power to a degree that allows those in power to violate our rights and steal our property for the benefits of their constituents. Populist “maverick” politicians who claim that they will “fight special interests” and “change the culture in Washington” are just attempting to subvert the power of the state to favor their particular constituency. Take away the power of the government, and you will remove both the incentive and the power of the “special interests.”