Politics as Usual: candidates first

J.B. Sivanich

Since the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, the 2008 election has taken a turn for the worst. Although the beginning of this dirty politicking is disputable, the most obvious moment that began this new direction of low blows and distorted records was Sen. McCain’s now infamous “sex ed.” ad. As many of you probably know by now, this ad claimed that while in the Illinois state senate, Sen. Obama voted to teach sex-education to kindergartners. The ad did not explain, however, that sex-education classes were to be age-appropriate which would translate to teaching about inappropriate touching at the kindergarten level.
Instead, claiming the higher ground, the Obama campaign released an ad in Spanish connecting John McCain to anti-immigrant rants of radio host Rush Limbaugh, which were taken out of context. This is ironic since Rush Limbaugh viciously attacked John McCain for supporting an immigration reform bill.
Possibly worse than these ads are the inaccurate records of the candidates and of their opponents. During his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama said that John McCain would tax health insurance benefits that Americans buy through employers that would cost the middle class $3.6 trillion while failing to mention that McCain’s plan also called for $2,500 tax credits for individuals and $5,000 tax credits for families as a reimbursement of sorts. On a more humorous note, John McCain said, “[Sarah Palin] knows more about energy than probably anyone in the United States.” Sarah Palin’s record of lying deserves a whole column by itself, if not a short book.
Using lies and deceit to try to change people’s minds on how they should vote does say something about these politicians. It shows a sense of arrogance toward the greater populace and a lack of trust in the American people, or at least in their intellect and/or analytical thinking skills. These tactics, however, say something about the greater American populace. Electoral politics are a science, and these types of strategies would not be put in place if they were not proven effective. Some might even say that a candidate who sticks to outlining detailed policy at every opportunity and forgoes the theatrics that, for better or worse, have become the modern political campaign has a poor grasp of realpolitik. Since politicians cannot be trusted to tell the truth the new litmus test has become to see what depths they will go in terms of promised policy and constructed alliances just to get elected.
This is nothing compared to Sen. McCain’s choice of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was a highly political moved aimed at attracting female voters and activating pro-life base of the Republican Party. If John McCain was concerned first and foremost about who he works best with and who would be a worthy replacement in case he is absent, he would have picked Sen. Joe Lieberman or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, his two top picks before he had to make a very un-maverick-like bow to the GOP’s base. By overstepping Lieberman and Ridge for Palin, Sen. McCain decided that being the best person for the job is not the single-most important criteria for the Vice Presidential position.
But this was more than just a political move; it was a dangerous one. In his desperation to win this election, Sen. McCain has put someone with no foreign policy or national security experience (and if recent interviews are any sign, a frighteningly basic understanding of such issues) in the White House. As one commentator noted, nothing Gov. Palin has done has reassured voters that “she [has] anything but a millimeter-thin understanding of the issues facing the country she hopes to help lead.”
McCain was the one who said that spending five years in Vietnam prisoner of war camp taught him that country was a cause greater than himself, but by picking Palin, he has not put his country first by possibly putting in the hands of someone who is scarily unprepared — if not ill-suited — to run it, he has put his own campaign and agenda first.