Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Keating and Ayers: The Campaigns Go Postal!
If the past weekend was a preview of coming attractions, then the next month should provide a lot of sleazy political drama. Both campaigns have "gone postal" (I prefer this to the term "nuclear"), and the amorphous but omnipresent "character" issue has been thrust into the election.
McCain, dropping rapidly in the polls, first launched the attack, by having Sarah Palin bring up Obama's "connection" to Bill Ayers, a former political radical who admitted bombing several governmental offices during the 1970s. Ayers is now a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Amazing turnaround. I wonder (not really) why more 1960s black radicals did not pursue jobs as tenured (not to mention "distinguished") professors. It's such a wonderful life.
Obama replied to the Ayers slam by airing a 16-minuite (wow) commercial on McCain's involvement in the Keating 5 - a group of 5 Senators charged with attempting to abort a federal investigation of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. McCain was cleared of any misconduct, but others in the group were found to have behaved improperly.
Obama says that McCain has gone postal out of desperation, but I suspect that this was a strategy that had already been plotted and saved for the final stretch. I also suspect that Obama's 16-minute video about the Keating scandal was not produced over the weekend. But why would candidates who both decry "the politics of personal assassination" resort to negative campaigning? Simple: It works! Although opinion polls show that voters loathe negative advertising, opinion polls also show that this type of campaigning actually influences voters' decisions. Basically, the studies prove that voters are hypocritical -- as if we needed polling data to demonstrate this.
As much as the public says that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are disgustingly tragic, the two remain among the most searched figures on the Internet. The country apparently has a love-hate relationship with sensationalism and trashy public sagas. Why else would the National Enquirer and other tabloids have such longevity? If Americans did not enjoy public emotional dramas, then they would not have paid so much attention to Elian Gonzales, Anna Nicole Smith, Waco, Texas, Terry Schiavo, the Polygamist Compound, Michael Jackson's child molestation trial, and the many other national sagas that have originated in Florida, Texas, and California.
So, I encourage the voters to buckle up. This is the moment you have been waiting for -- yet vehemently criticizing. Let the mudslinging begin. You can clean yourselves later.