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.