What’s Left – Hope vs. Evil

Last week, in a move that shocked Democrats and Republicans alike, Karl Rove suggested to FOX News that McCain had gone “one step too far” in some of his recent advertisements attacking Senator Obama. When I first came across the news story on CNN.com last Sunday I was dumbfounded.

Karl Rove is an icon of dirty Republican politics and is famous for designing the strategy that put Bush into office not once, but twice. During the 2000 Republican Primary in South Carolina, the Bush camp felt threatened by then candidate Senator John McCain. In the subsequent days a push-poll was developed which asked South Carolina voters the following question: “Would you be less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”

Push-polls are a common, but unethical, technique that campaigns employ to inform voters of important and controversial information in passive manners. While no hard evidence exists tying Rove, the director of the Bush campaign, directly to the push-poll, it would be hard to believe that something which blatantly altered the results of the primary came from any other source.

In the eight years following the South Carolina primary, Mr. Rove managed to find himself under siege time and again for involvement in a number of different scandals. With a history of unethical behavior and the implementation of shady political action, shouldn’t we find it a bit disconcerting that he is attacking the methods John McCain is using to breakdown Senator Obama?

Senator Obama, from the start, has run a campaign that is based on hope. Senator McCain, however, has been forced to work on the offensive and build his campaign on the basis of securing fear in the American people. The McCain camp has worked on the assumption that once they have instilled fear in the voting populous, they are entitled to abuse this fear and exploit John McCain’s experience as the only possible remedy. On August 27, 2008 the McCain campaign released a television advertisement that depicted a dark and evil image of Iran, suggesting their capability to build nuclear weapons and destroy Israel. The commercial closes with the following statement, “terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren’t serious threats? Obama, dangerously unprepared to be president.” And yet, if we think back to June of 2008, Mr. Obama gave his first speech, ever, as the recognized Democratic nominee at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. It is during this speech that Obama explicitly outlines his pro-Israel and anti-Iran stance.

On September 9, 2008 Senator Joe Biden, in a speech to voters in Columbia, Missouri, suggested that Republicans who advocate for people with disabilities should also be advocating for stem-cell research. Although Mr. Biden never mentioned Governor Palin’s name directly, the McCain camp was quick to assert that Mr. Biden was personally attacking Palin because her son has Down Syndrome. As the day progressed, the McCain-Palin people insisted that Biden’s comments “sunk to a new low.”

Of course Palin knew that her son had Down syndrome, even before she delivered him, because of the amniocentesis she had performed a few months into her pregnancy. Anti-choice political factions, like Sarah Palin, are often vehemently opposed to amniocentesis procedures because they are invasive, can induce health problems with the unborn child and can even lead to unintentional abortions. Of course, Governor Palin had the choice to have this procedure because of the tenets of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that she opposes.

The question still remains: why does any of this really matter? Perhaps Palin’s record on some of these issues might shed a bit of light. While Palin opposes a woman’s right to choose, in the past year she and her daughter have both exercised this right of choice. Is it necessary, important or even fair to talk about the morality of her daughter’s pregnancy? Certainly not. However, I would contend that it is more than fair to discuss the gaping hole that exist between what Governor Palin believes is right for the American people and what is right for her family. Without rallying around fear, anywhere they can produce it, the McCain camp will continue to struggle to make progress in the polls. Although there is almost no relationship between each campaign’s position on Israel and abortion, I chose these examples because it should be shocking how varied the factions are in which the McCain campaign is trying to inspire fear.

What’s most disappointing, though, is the fear that McCain’s people have tried to instill with reference to acts of terrorism in the American people. We all know just how sensitive this country has become regarding national security and terrorism, thus making the patriotic an easy target of the abuse of fear. Karl Rove sealed his reputation many years ago as the most backward and unethical political strategist in the history of the country. And thus, when he is telling even the members of his own party that they’ve “gone too far,” one has to wonder how severe the consequences really are.