Editorial: Getting dirty early in the campaign

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

The Straight Talk Express appears to have veered sharp right and opted for the well-worn path of smear that has been the road for many to the White House in recent years.

Sen. John McCain’s decision to go negative in ads comparing Sen. Barack Obama to laughingstock celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton before the race is even officially underway – neither has been officially nominated by their parties yet – is in conflict with the GOP candidate’s promise to run a “respectful” campaign.

It shows that McCain, who earned a reputation in his Quixotic run for president in 2000 as a maverick and independent thinker, has sold his soul in what is likely his last attempt to win the White House.

We had hoped this campaign would be different from the last few decades – going back to the the infamous “Daisy” ad intimating Barry Goldwater would lead us into nuclear destruction – where the battles had denigrated into preying on people’s worst fears and instincts rather than substantive discussion of the issues.

Obama, despite his meteoric rise on the national stage, is still very much an unknown, untested and undefined quantity to many voters. His dearth of experience, especially on the world stage, is surely a valid point that is open to question.

But it trivializes the issue, the voters and the McCain campaign to equate Obama’s popularity as nothing more than celebrity voyeurism on par with sad public figures who have issues best dealt with out of the public view. And coming so early in the campaign, it is a sorry harbinger of what we can expect between now and Nov. 4.

Frankly, we had hoped for and expected more of McCain, a full-fledged war hero who won the hearts of voters, including here in Massachusetts where he beat then-candidate George W. Bush in the primary, for his willingness to put the country’s best interests ahead of partisan politics.

McCain clearly must do something to overcome the public fascination with Obama and his ads have reflected that. More than 90 percent of the ads by Obama make no mention McCain, but one-third of McCain’s commercials make negative references to Obama, according to a study of political commercials by the Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin.

But negative ads with no campaign relevance are not the only ways to win votes. Ronald Reagan proved that with his optimistic visions of America as a “shining city upon a hill” and his reelection theme of “Morning in America.” And Bill Clinton rode into the White House as “the man from Hope.”

We still haven’t moved past the party conventions yet so it’s not too late for either side to fulfill its promise and, hopefully, the desire of American voters to leave the negative behind

The Patriot Ledger