Monday, April 28, 2008

Undoing Unethical Political Practice

This weekend and this morning I was able to catch the speech of Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. to The Detroit NAACP and to part of that at the National Press Club. I am pleased that he had these opportunities and that some media had the courage to show them whole.

This episode is an example of the worst of modern campaign underhandedness. If you can’t find something in an opponent’s positions on the issues that the electorate will reject or about the candidate himself or herself that is unacceptable then go to the next step. Associate your opponent with someone or some group whose positions or personality would be unacceptable.

In this case a bad guy could not be found. At least the several attempts to associate Obama with Islam or Chicago criminals failed to wash. The tactic then was to begin with an association that the candidate clearly claims, his Christianity. A bad guy was needed, however, and the voluminous writings and widely distributed sermons of his pastor were mined. Apparently the only hope of smearing such a prolific and nationally respected clergyman was to circulate sound bites of his sermons out of context.

This tactic has been used also against McCain, mostly by fellow Republicans. The idea that if someone endorses a candidate that the candidate agrees with all the positions and biases of the endorsee is preposterous. It has been claimed again and again this year. The demands that candidates repudiate and condemn some person or group are widespread and while it may be appropriate in some few cases it appears to be mostly a diversion from the valuable debate and discussion the electorate deserves.

The reputation of Rev Wright has clearly been maligned. All those I have spoken with who are negative on him base their position on the You-Tube sound bites and not his books or his sermons in context. Despite all the calls of Obama supporters that he shut up and go away the Pastor deserves the chance to respond in the same arena where the attack took place.

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