McCain Mailer Controversy

A reader sent in a note about this controversial McCain mailer, saying :

I’m sure you have an explanation, but this flyer….proves that your argument posted the other day, that the Republican
party has not changed in the past decade, and your claim that McCain
should not be held responsible for the ugliness of those calling Obama a terrorist during McCain/Palin rallies, could not be more hopelessly
wrong. This flyer is repulsive. It is emblematic of the new Karl Rove
and Bush-Cheney GOP and it is precisely what is wrong with today’s
Republican party: they have abandoned any pretense that principle or
even policy matters, and they have decided that power is the only goal.
Worse, they are entirely comfortable with the concept that fear
mongering and hatred are acceptable campaign tactics to achieve that

Well, I won’t disappoint.

First, the reader says that the mailer has nothing to do with “policy.” But in fact, the mailer hits on a very fundamental policy difference between the candidates. Whether or not the next President should sit down with Ahmedinajad (and others of his ilk) is an open, legitimate question. To be sure, many foreign policy experts support Senator Obama’s position. And many others disagree, myself included. For historical support, I point to the disastrous consequences of the agreements which were struck with Adolf Hitler and Yasser Arafat. Some foreign leaders have neither the ability nor the intention to ever honor their agreements. And let’s remember, no President, Republican or Democrat, has established diplomatic relations with Iran since the fundamentalist revolution of 1979.

As for fear-mongering, that goes back many, many decades, and is hardly the sole province of either major party. I mean didn’t LBJ basically write the book on it with this inflammatory spot saying Barry Goldwater would start a nuclear war, an ad still considered the most powerful and controversial political spot in history? And wasn’t the entire Jimmy Carter re-election campaign based on the depiction of Ronald Reagan as a warmonger?

Don’t take my word for it, folks. The Washington Post talked four years ago about the role fear was playing then and the role it had played in prior campaigns:

With both campaigns embracing what often amounts to the politics of fear, voters are getting a heavier-than-ever dose of speeches and television ads from Bush, Kerry and political groups designed to convince them the other ticket would make the world more dangerous and increase the likelihood of casualties or catastrophe. Historians say this tactic is more pervasive than in past presidential campaigns, including Jimmy Carter’s portrayal of Ronald Reagan as a warmonger in 1980 and Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous “daisy girl” ad that warned of nuclear war if Barry M. Goldwater was elected in 1964.

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