Everyone is predicting a knock-down-drag-out campaign between George
Bush and Al Gore. I say, bring it on!
Negative commentary about negative campaigning has reached a
crescendo in the last few election cycles and is reaching epic
proportions this year. The phrase “negative campaigning” is bandied
about so loosely anymore that it has become incomprehensible.
The candidates most critical of “negative campaigning” are generally
those with the most to hide. The media’s denunciation of the practice,
though, is more a function of their demand for purity in the political
process, in the same vein as their calls for campaign finance reform.
How hypocritical for those who make a living smearing people to decry
We ought to distinguish between “negative” and “dirty” campaigning.
Lying about your opponent and his record is dirty and should be
condemned. But there is nothing improper about truthfully publicizing
your opponent’s positions on the issues or activities he has engaged in
that bear on his character.
Indeed, it is anti-democratic for candidates to avoid engaging in a
full-throttled debate about the issues, no matter how unpleasant some
may find it. Surely we don’t want to pretend that we are so pristine
that we will even subordinate our obligation to inform the voters.
It is also irresponsible to discourage the disclosure of credible
information concerning a presidential candidate’s character. The
founders of this nation insisted that the president be a man of virtue.
How are the voters supposed to make an informed decision without having
information pertinent to the candidate’s character? Which is worse:
saying unpleasant things about your opponent and preventing his election
or refraining and allowing him to be elected to inflict damage on this
They tell us that Gore is lying in wait for Bush, and when the
campaign gets into full swing he will unleash on him with an all out
expose of his checkered past. Honestly, I’m not too concerned.
Al Gore, on the other hand, is way too boring to have dissipated in
his personal life. But people shouldn’t mistake his presumed marital
fidelity for all around integrity. In addition to fully embracing Bill
Clinton’s corruption by designating himself head cheerleader, he has
demonstrated himself to be a dishonest and corrupt politician in his own
right and his infractions are ongoing.
Those frustrated with the wholesale absence of justice for Bill
Clinton may be treated to some satisfaction as this campaign unfolds.
This past weekend gives us a little glimpse into what we can expect
from the Bush team, and it’s not going to be pretty for Al Gore. He’s
apparently unfamiliar with the Confucius admonition, “he who live in
glass house dress in basement.”
When Bush was asked about Gore’s brazen statement in the Washington
Times that he would make campaign finance reform a centerpiece of his
campaign, he inquired if it was an April Fool’s edition. In like
fashion, Bush strategist Karl Rove refused to tolerate Gore’s assertions
that his Buddhist temple appearance and White House fund-soliciting
phone calls were simply mistakes. “This is more than just a little
teensy-weensy mistake,” said Rove.
Republicans and Bush operatives have finally learned how to deal with
Clinton/Gore lies. And that is, to confront them head on and
immediately. As we’ve already seen, Gore’s distortions and fabrications
don’t work as well for him. Robots, even well lubricated ones, don’t
make good liars.
Rove is correct. Gore’s glib statement that he has learned from his
mistakes does violence to our language. Deliberate violations of law are
not mistakes. You generally don’t learn much from your felonies unless
you are first punished for them.
Historian Paul Johnson said, “beware of those who seek to win an
argument at the expense of the language. For the fact that they do so is
proof positive that their argument is false, and proof presumptive that
they know it is. … Those who treasure the meaning of words, will
treasure truth, and those who bend words to their purposes are very
likely in pursuit of anti-social ones. The correct and honorable use of
words is the first and natural credential of civilized status.”
It is high time that Republicans rescue our language from Clinton and
Gore. It’s high time they rescue our country. Fasten your seatbelts.