Scandals, Attacks, And Going Negative: The week in political scandal

Interesting couple of days on the political scene. Here in Massachusetts, we've got Democratic Governor Deval Patrick denouncing Charlie Baker for negative attack ads run by the Republican Governors Association -- mostly against independent candidate Tim Cahill. Patrick's critics naturally point out that he benefitted from third-party negative attack ads in 2006, which has forced him to parse the difference between the two -- or denounce both (he tried both approaches yesterday). We've got Baker, still almost completely unknown among voters, launching a new campaign theme built entirely around a "negative": that voters have "Had Enough" of office-holders Patrick and Cahill. We've got accusations that Jeff Perry, Republican congressional candidate in the hotly contested race to succeed Bill Delahunt, was involved in illegal strip-searches as a Wareham police sergeant in the early 1990s -- and some reaction calling that story an unfair attack.

Nationally, there's the story that the frontrunner for US Senate in Connecticut, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, lied and/or misled about serving in Vietnam; the resignation of Republican congressman Mark Souder over revelations of his affair with an aide; and a very damaging story that Republican Nevada governor Jim Gibbons -- already in deep trouble for re-election -- was largely absent from duty during the state's 2008 economic and budget crisis.

Campaign cycles always focus heavily on the negative -- and there are always candidates who try to portray themselves as clean-handed, often as a strategy to hamstring opponents from going as negative as they'd like. This cycle figures to be more prone to that sort of thing than usual, because everyone's in a pretty negative mood about things, so there's a lot more material for attack than for boasting.

As for the actual scandals, I don't know if there are more of them than usual -- it seems like there's pretty much always politicians caught cheating and lying and whatnot. One might imagine that in this year's anti-pol atmosphere, those sins might prove more politically damaging than otherwise, but we'll see if that proves true.

One thought about the Blumenthal scandal. Most of the reaction I've seen -- especially from post-draft generations -- seems of the mind that dodging and conniving one's way out of Vietnam is understandable and forgivable (though not exactly admirable), but lying about serving is a baffling and mortal sin. I think that once upon a time -- and perhaps when Blumenthal first began fudging his history -- public sentiment might have been the other way around; that evading one's duty showed a disqualifying cravenness and lack of moral fiber, while lying about it was, while bad, understandable and empathizable given the shame of dodging. 

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Talking Politics Archives