As most of you have picked up over the months I’ve been in campaigns one way or another since the mid-sixties. (Yes, that dates me a bit but I’m a lot younger than Clint Eastwood and I still wouldn’t tangle with him in a dark alley so 59 doesn’t seem so old to me.)
I’ve lived through Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, all the assinations and riots in the street. I’ve left blood on the streets for my belief in the American political process. With all those controversial elements I’ve never seen a more ugly, nasty and mean-spirited campaign. With Sarah Palin chosen for her gender, her attractiveness and a willingness to simply lie as a matter of policy it has gone beyond my ability to understand.
Here’s a presidential candidate, John McCain, who was simply savaged in his 2000 primary campaign by George W. Bush in South Carolina. It destroyed his campaign. He was hit with filth, lies and innuendo in a constant never ending stream. He swore he would never use such tactics in any campaign anywhere. He said that on his Straight Talk Express bus. I’ve seen the clip recently and remember it when it happened. When this campaign started he said generally the same thing. This was to me a clean, policy based campaign.
What a joke. It’s important to understand that Lee Atwater was the first master of the negative campaign. His protege was Karl Rove. Karl Rove’s protege is Rick Davis who was retained in the last months to run McCain’s campaign. The straight path of ugliness, lies and filthy campaigning is unbroken from Lee Atwater. Remember, Rick Davis said that personality would decide the winner. He’s doing his best to change the campaign to a series of personal attacks. So far Sarah Palin has carried the water for that task but yesterday John McCain joined in as well.
Tonight we will see if the format restrains the ugliness. Perhaps, as happened in the 1992 town hall meeting a member of the audience will stand up and ask the candidates to pledge that for at least that night they would stop the personal attacks and concentrate on policy. It truly changed the nature of the night.
As I said in my headline I’ve never felt so sad at the state of a presidential campaign.
(More after the debate tonight.)