The political attack by Mary Bono Mack against Raul Ruiz appears to be one of the most negative in recent memory here in the Coachella Valley. If you have not been paying attention, Bono Mack accused Ruiz of being a radical and backed up her claim by producing an audiotape of Ruiz supporting Leonard Pelletier, a Native American who went to jail for killing two FBI agents. Native American groups are lambasting Bono Mack for what they believe is a misleading attack on Ruiz who they feel was simply expressing youthful concerns over the imprisonment of Pelletier – a trial that Amnesty International classifies as “unfair”.
In the presidential campaign, the Obama team has aired an ad stating that Joe Soptic lost his wife to cancer because of Mitt Romney and his old firm, Bain Capital. The problem with this attack piece is that Soptic’s wife was diagnosed with cancer five years after the factory he worked for closed.
Those opposed to Obama have constantly accused him of being a closet Muslim, a secret agent of the Muslim brotherhood, a friend and disciple of extremists and radicals, a socialist and/or communist while questioning his citizenship.
While people generally scorn negative attacks, this approach continues because it works. When people say that the current campaign is the worst or dirtiest ever, it shows how most negative attack ads are forgotten over time.
Remember 1988 when Bush 41 accused Michael Dukakis of giving weekend parole passes to killers where one killed during his weekend pass? That ad is credited for giving Bush 41 the victory. Bush 43 was successful in beating back a primary challenge by John McCain by claiming that McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock. This blatant lie was key to his winning the nomination and eventually the Presidency.
About 125 years earlier when Abraham Lincoln ran for President, his opponents called him “ape-like” in a rude double entendre that referred to his height as well as his support for the abolishment of slavery.
In one of America’s earliest elections, John Adams (Adams 2) supporters predicted that if Thomas Jefferson was elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” Not to be outdone, Jefferson supporters stated that Adams wanted to return America to a monarchy – a touchy subject so early in our Democracy. Adams supporters countered by saying that Jefferson was a misogynist who had sex with one of his black slaves – a claim later proven to be true.
A few years later when Adam’s son, John Quincy Adams (Adams 6), ran for President against Andrew Jackson, he accused Jackson of being a hothead for challenging and killing so many people via duels, a reasonable claim given Jackson’s penchant for duels. Jackson’s wife was also brought into things as she may not have divorced another man before marrying Jackson – a claim later proven to be accurate. In response to the bigamist charge, the Jackson camp accused Adams 6 of being the “pimp” of American girls while serving as the U.S. envoy to Russia.
While Adam’s won the first contest in 1824, Andrew Jackson won the rematch four years later although at a steep price. You see, his wife died of a heart attack before the inauguration with her death attributed to the stress of a campaign filled with lies and libelous character attacks.
In an interesting sidenote to the 1824 election, defenders of the status quo were called National Republicans while those looking for change were called Democratic Republicans.
For as much as things change, things are the same as they ever were.