It is an axiom of politics that the candidate who finds himself trailing going into the home stretch of a campaign must “go negative” in order to make up the deficit before election day.
The thinking behind this strategy is not to get voters to change their minds necessarily but rather so disgust the supporters of your opponent that they stay home on election day.
Congratulations, George Allen. You’ve hit the jackpot.
Issuing a press release that quotes a character from one of Webb’s saucy war novels doing unspeakable things to his own son (sorry – find the damn link somewhere else. I don’t link to porn.), Allen may very well have sealed his victory by “outing” Webb’s fictional day dreams but he has lost his soul in the process.
Yes, yes, I know all the excuses my intelligent and worthy commenters are going to give below. It’s in the public domain. It is weird. Allen included a plethora of other quotes showing Webb’s disdain for women in the press release – in a way much more disturbing than the incestuous porn and barely concealed pedophilia. And Webb’s dishonest attacks on Allen’s character deserve to be answered in kind.
But doesn’t this make anyone else’s skin crawl? Both because Webb wrote it and Allen brought it into a political campaign?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written many times that politics is a full contact sport and that just about anything is fair game when it comes to the kind of bare knuckled, Pier Street brawl that the Allen-Webb contest has become.
But I also believe that politics is not a zero sum game. There must be limits beyond which a candidate is penalized for exceeding. The absolutely disgusting nature of the passages quoted in the Allen press release fills that bill. The fact that they are quoting piece of fiction obviates only slightly Webb’s startling and disturbing imaginative wanderings into the sexual dark side of the human mind as it also reveals the depths to which Allen’s honor and integrity have sunk.
If this doesn’t doom any Presidential hopes for the Virginia Senator, it certainly should.
This “outing” does nothing to elevate the debate over Iraq, homeland security, the economy. or any number of other important issues. But then, few campaigns going today are interested in doing so. Perhaps, as in other times in our history, the real issues are so divisive, so painful to discuss that we substitute this kind of excrement and call it politics so that we don’t have to face the hard choices.
The winds of history are blowing gale force outside our door while inside, the occupants are tearing at each other’s vitals, going toe to toe, hammer and tongs over trivialities, personality quirks, and the real or imagined malfeasance of one party or another. Evil lurks in dark corners, conspiracies flourish, and the absolute worst of our fellow countrymen is said and believed.
In some ways, the election of 1800 was similar. The Democratic Republicans (Jeffersonians) were convinced that 4 more years of Federalist rule would doom the American experiment. Democrats were telling anyone who would listen that the Federalists wished to establish a monarchy along with a debased aristocracy while corrupting the republic with their money schemes and unconstitutional actions.
The real issues were the formation of a national bank and the support of the Federalists for Great Britain in their war with Napoleon. The campaign carried out against one of the greatest Americans who ever lived, John Adams, was shameful. Rather than attack his policies, the Democrats went after Adams personally. The viciousness of their attacks depressed the great man and caused a rift in his friendship with Jefferson that was to last almost 20 years.
In the end, Jefferson and Adams healed the wounds from that campaign and, in the most remarkable of exchanges in the history of American letters, explored the philosophy and politics that made up the basis of the grand experiment in democracy in which they both played such a vital role. Their letters – affectionate, teasing at times, and thoughtful – prove that even the rankest of political enemies can find common ground if a modest effort is made.
I daresay that Allen and Webb will be enemies until the day they die. A pity, that. Both men have proved in the past that they have a lot to offer the country. And given the perilous times in which we live, we could use whatever wit and wisdom they could contribute to public life in America.
Now, the George Allen campaign has detonated its October surprise using the same tactics as Cheney’s and Libby’s critics—attacking the fiction of his Democrat opponent, James Webb via an official “press release” sent to the Drudge Report last night. Are the passages in Webb’s “Lost Soldiers” bizarre and perverted? Yes. But they are no more proof of Webb’s immorality and unfitness for office than the passages in “Sisters” are proof that Lynne Cheney hates men or that the passages in “The Apprentice” are proof that Scooter Libby endorses sex between children and bears.
Agreed. But the efficacy of using Webb’s words as a device to attack him in some way still rubs me the wrong way.