Bring It On!

The Nabob of Non-Negativism

June 17th, 2008 | by Omnipotent Poobah |

Obama Fights the SmearsIt seems negative campaigning isn’t working as well as it once was. Although all the major primary candidates indulged in it to some degree, maybe voters are finally living up to their calls for cleaner campaigning by actually turning off the most negative messages. That’s not to say it’s a big, fluffy love fest on the campaign trail. There’s plenty of mud to sling and no doubt some of it will stick. After all, politics is a full-contact sport and always will be. That’s why Barack Obama’s new Fight the Smears website is such an interesting phenomenon.

The traditional method of fighting back using your “truth” vs. your opponent’s “truth” was most often just a duel between two disingenuous gun fighters. Everyone could see the holes in the stories and no one, other than the most committed drinkers of the Kool Aid, believed much of the argument from either side. The diehards would preach to the already converted and the rest of the public just yawned and said, “yeah, right”.

But 8 years of hearing only the sketchiest of truthtelling has begun to make people pay more attention. When politicos defend themselves now, voters actually listen - at least a little. Voters have become more adept at seeing the lies and more disposed to turn against candidates who employ them. That’s fertile ground for the Obama campaign’s new online tactic.

If Obama can refrain from jumping at every slight and react with a modicum of intelligence to the “sho-nuff” lies, sites like his might improve the political climate. If he tells the truth, backed up with actual facts, he’ll make it less attractive for dirty campaigners like Darth Rove to get away with it. If he responds with vague, unverifiable slaps he’ll damage not only himself, but the promise this cleaner type of campaigning offers. If so, we’ll all be back at the point where we just tune things out and assume everyone is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

When someone is poking you with a sharp stick it’s hard to confine yourself to the issue at hand and the truth available to defend yourself. You want to hurt your antagonist with a Funniest Home Videos kick to the crotch. But sometimes the untruth simply isn’t worth it or it’s just “truthy” enough to be partially true. A few well-placed half-truths are always harder to battle than flat out lies, so these are the times when a candidate has to really be on their toes. If you do too little, you’re a wimp. If you do much, you’re a lying blowhard. If you fight back like John McCain, you’re just a pitiful old man who would sell his soul for a seat in the Oval Office.

In my opinion, Obama has probably engaged in the least outrageous lies - although he’s had his moments too. He’s running against a man who apparently doesn’t shy from just telling a lie. For better or worse, Obama has a reputation as a changer who might just be able to carry off the deft balance his crusade for the truth requires. Meanwhile it appears that fewer and fewer people view McCain as a maverick and more like a short-fuzed IED. Being a maverick is a tough story to sell when you’re up to your eyelids in lobbyists and willing to change positions at will to placate some weird, otherworldly constituency. But if Obama finds the right balance, we may be seeing a new way of campaigning being born…

…at least until the next scummeister comes along.

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