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The right side of the mud trail

This is a column I don’t particularly want to write.

I’ve been planning to vote for Christine Jennings, and I undoubtedly still will, but, I’ve got a problem with the recent path she’s asking Democrats to follow.

I’m more than willing to follow a candidate along a rocky or rough and tumble campaign trail. But I find it a considerably less enjoyable journey when the trail deteriorates to mud.

Jennings’ latest ad — when it speaks about Vern Buchanan — whether accurate or not, is gossip.

While gossip is sometimes true, sometimes false, what’s important to remember is that gossip never really says anything of importance about the person who is its subject. But it says plenty about the person who is spreading it.

Jennings, who has had to endure quite a bit of negative campaigning at Buchanan’s hand, should know this better than most.

I thought I could write off the ad as just an ugly aspect of campaigning forced upon her by the machine that is trying to put her in office. But, I just can’t ignore what is said at the beginning of the ad – in Jennings’ own voice: “I’m Christine Jennings, and I approved this ad.”

Dang; now I’ve got to write this column.

The ad starts off well; it talks about Jennings and what she’s accomplished and what she stands for.

Then, the ad abruptly switches gears and starts talking about Buchanan. Here’s that portion of the ad’s transcript, pulled from the Christine Jennings for Congress website:

“But Vern Buchanan’s at it again. More negative attacks to hide his own corrupt business deals. Buchanan’s been sued, dozens of times…
…defaulting on loans…
…failing to pay taxes.

That’s too corrupt, even for Washington.”

Do Jennings and her campaign team think voters won’t notice the disturbing hypocrisy of calling Buchanan on the carpet for “negative attacks” in one breath and then describing business deals as “corrupt” and gossiping about lawsuits and loan defaults in the next?

I know everyone is urging Democrats to play hardball and quit being so damn wussy.

But we’re not on a playground, are we? We can’t defend such tactics by boo-hooing to the monitor, “But Mrs. Smith, Johnny hit me first.” This isn’t grade school; this is government.

I know the argument is made that in politics especially, you have to fight fire with fire.

But instead of resorting to childish flame-throwing across party lines, why not build a firewall around your party’s camp – a protective fire so big, so bold, it subsumes all manner of fiery slings and arrows that come its way?

It’s the fire of personal integrity, and it’s the only kind of fire that can’t be extinguished.

Here’s the problem when you lower your standards: There’s rarely ever any going back.

Those in your circle who maintain standards will start to disassociate themselves. And those for whom your standards never mattered will be the same ones surrounding you later, advising you, influencing you farther down a slippery slope.

If I had Ms. Jennings’ ear, I’d tell her to climb out of the mud and get back on the high road. I’d advise her to cancel the ad and any others like it that might be in production. I’d advise her to let Buchanan roll around in the mud by himself.

If she ran an ad that refuted or rebutted Buchanan’s negative gossip-mongering about her, I’d be right behind her, helping her slog through the mud he’s been churning up.

Or if she’d come right out and give her opinion of Buchanan, directly and in her own voice, I could respect that. But saying you “approve” an ad that has a voice-over actor slinging the mud for you? Not so much.

I agree there are times when one must defend one’s self. But quid pro quo attack tactics are not defensive, they’re offensive.

John Kenneth Galbraith said “There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose.”

I definitely don’t want to see Jennings lose. And, I’m still going to vote for her, even if my own shoes get slightly muddy in the process.

But being on the right side of mud-slinging means only one thing — not slinging it.

Not first. Not second. Not at all.

Posted on October 22nd, 2006Comments RSS Feed
2 Responses to The right side of the mud trail
  1. Happy the Hippo
    October 22, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    You should check out Christine’s new ad, which is up at her web site, Seems she is taking the high road right now. It’s worth noting though that Buchanan has only gotten worse since last time, being named by a nonpartisan group as one of the top 20 most Corrupt Congresspersons. Here’s hoping the election turns out the “right” way this time!

  2. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    October 23, 2008 at 6:01 am

    Nothing on her web site debunks the allegations she’s in favor of providing SSA benefits to illegal aliens; or the non-payment of taxes. Well??

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