Why not elect a president on the facts: not on personal attacks, lies and deceit

In a free society, it’s no one’s job to tell people how to vote. (Although it looks like there are people certainly trying.)

While history is full of all kinds of political campaigns that have made strong emotional and visceral attempts to try and sway voters, ranging from 1840’s “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” to the 1964 “Daisy Girl” ad.

And, no one should be surprised when the truth gets s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d like good ol’ Silly Putty. Often, claims are made that are subject to varying degrees of interpretation as to their factual content.

Those days are starting to look like a baby party compared to this year’s attacks, particularly against the incumbent president, Barack Obama.

According to this story by David Horsey, “Obama’s birthplace, his paternity, his religion, his academic attainments, his citizenship and his loyalty to the country have all been called into question by people who feel no moral qualms about spreading fabrications and untruths”:

It is impossible to know if Mitt Romney would turn out to be a good, bad or a mediocre president, but one certain downside of a Romney victory is that it would reward the most venal forces in American politics.

It only starts with the kind of campaign Romney has run. He and his “super PAC” allies used a mountain of dollars to produce unending waves of attack ads that swamped the messages of his Republican primary rivals, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. In the general election, Romney cranked it up a notch. President Obama’s own money machine paid for a slew of hard-hitting attacks against Romney that employed exaggeration and selective facts, but none of the Obama ads reached the same low level of deception as those put up by Romney as he zeroed in on the president.

Of course, disgustingly misleading attack ads have become ubiquitous at all levels of politics this year. Whether Romney wins or loses, that is unlikely to change. Still, seeing a campaign for president propelled to victory on so many outright falsehoods cannot be good for the republic.

That would be the lesser of the ill effects of a Romney win, though. Much worse is that the right wing’s broader onslaught of derision and lies against the president that began even before he took office would have achieved its goal. Barack Obama may, or may not, deserve reelection. But no man with as much decency as Obama exhibits in both his private and public life deserves the contempt that has been dumped on him by arch-conservative ideologues, talk show ranters and Internet goons.

From Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump to all the anonymous creators of the wild fabrications that churn out of websites and go viral in emails, the relentless vilification of Obama has been unprecedented. Sure, every president suffers unfair criticism. Many of our most effective presidents, from Thomas Jefferson and AbrahamLincoln to Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, have been slandered and hounded by critics. But Obama’s detractors have plumbed new and revolting depths of mendacity.

Any unfair tactic, any lie is justified in order to “take back America” from someone they refuse to accept as a legitimate president, despite the indisputable reality that he was elected by a majority of American voters in a near-landslide of electoral votes.

It is a false equivalence to say the left has been guilty of similar smears during the administrations of Republican presidents. In those past instances, all but a few Democratic elected officials shunned such slanders. The same was true for all but the most rabid liberal commentators. But most of today’s Republican leaders stay silent in the face of the lies and many eagerly repeat them, while leading conservative pundits give the endless falsehoods credence, not an honest critique.

The right wing’s eagerness to engage in deceit has distorted credible conservatism and corrupted political discourse. It has turned the Grand Old Party into a rigid and narrow ideological club that tries to purge any Republican who displays even a hint of moderation or willingness to compromise.

The ever-waffling Romney is not their perfect candidate, but, for now, that does not matter. He offers their one and only chance to drive the usurper, Obama, from the White House. That has been the right wing’s objective every minute of every day for four years, and vindication of their dishonest, un-American crusade would be the worst result of Mitt Romney’s election.

Okay, so here’s what I don’t get: what is so awful about the man? Why do all these people hate him with a vitriol that we haven’t seen since the last days of Richard Nixon?

  • First, it was that his middle name was Hussein…and Goldurn it, you know that Saddam fella had that name! Obama must be a Muslim!  Well, although he might have been raised that way, he’s not a practicing one.
  • Next, it was Obamacare. All he did was follow Mitt Romney’s 2007 model for Massachusetts. It was even called “Romneycare.”
  • Then, it was that he wasn’t an American citizen. (Actually, this claim started well before he put his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 Inaugural Bible on January 20, 2009 to be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.) After some going around and around between Ken Bennett, Arizona’s Secretary of State and the Hawaiian Attorney General’s office, that was put to rest this part March. (And thanks for embarrassing all of us here in Arizona, Ken!) If Hawaii was a state in 1961, when and where Obama was born, then yes he is a US citizen. (I’ll spare you the research and inform you that both Alaska and Hawaii entered the US in 1959 as the 49th and 50th states, respectively.)

I’m sure there were many more. But, back to the original point:

  • We’ve had a president who was at some point and in some way involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal (Ronald Reagan);
  • He was followed by another who promised “Read my lips: no new taxes,” which he promptly did (George H. W. Bush);
  • The next one was a proven adulterer while President and was also in the process of being impeached (Bill Clinton);
  • There then followed the son of the “no new taxes” guy who got us into an officially-undeclared war with Iraq claiming to seek out and destroy our new sworn enemy, Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 Terrorist Attack in 2001 (George W. Bush). The war started because there was a fear of “weapons of mass destruction.” A UN-led team of inspectors was not able to find any such armaments, and in fact even after the US invasion and occupation, such weapons were never found. Perhaps Saddam Hussein was affiliated with al’Qaeda–no evidence was ever found concerning that either.

So, there’s certainly enough hatred, dislike and disdain to go around, particularly with the last guy. Why is Obama such a terrible president?

I reaaaaaally don’t want to believe it has anything to do with race. Please please PUH-LEEZE don’t have that be the reason. I thought, when we elected a person of African-American descent it would be a cause for celebration for the ENTIRE US, not just a few. Well, apparently that was good for all of about 20 minutes, and then the individuals who were hell-bent on hating him showed up.

George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff John Sununu just about said as much, in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan last Thursday night. Pointing to retired four-star general Colin Powell’s second endorsement of Obama, Sununu said that the man who was Bush’s Secretary of State might have had race as a factor in his support:

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or he’s got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama,” Sununu said, adding: “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Yes, he really said that. Oh, and for the record: Sununu is white.

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly added his thoughts on the endorsement, in an interview with Fox’s Arthel Neville. From the OpposingViews website:

One day after Bill O’Reilly revealed he thinks President Barack Obama has a “grievance against whites,” he “just asked” if the reason General Colin Powell endorsed Obama is because they both benefitted from affirmative action. Guest and Fox News contributor Arthel Neville smacked down O’Reilly but good.

O’Reilly: General Powell has been, in his books, quite candid about him using affirmative action to succeed, alright, and Barack Obama did use affirmative action to, you know, be educated and something like that. Do you think that there is any racial business here?

Neville: No.

O’Reilly: And I’m not saying that pejoratively. I’m not saying that in a negative… But a connection – the general and the president came up the same way.

Right, he doesn’t mean it in a negative way, he’s just wondering if the guy who has a racial grievance was endorsed by another black guy merely because they’re both black and both benefitted from affirmative action. Incidentally, O’Reilly believes affirmative action gives minorities an unfair advantage over whites.

I wasn’t planning on writing any more about the election until possibly it was over. I graduated with a degree in both English and Political Science, but I realize that this is a difficult and deeply personal subject for many. However, when I heard about some of the points in this article I thought I had to bring them to light.

I’m not a big supporter of Barack Obama. I think he’s done well, given what he’s had to fight against. But what has really made me more of a one was the very thing that is supposed to make me dislike him: all the twisted and inaccurate facts and general negativity his opponents are spewing out.

I believe Barack Obama is the best choice for the US for the next four years. In my view there neither are nor have been any reasons to elect a different man as our president right now.

Am I better off now than I was four years ago?, his opponent asks. That question is moot. I very much fear where I might be–where we all might be–in the next four years without him.

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