A negative end

The final stretch of the election season has clearly demonstrated that politicians across the country cannot resist the urge to become negative. Whether it is through television ads, phone messages or by simply questioning their opponent’s ability, the promises not to go negative touted by many candidates at the beginning of this campaign season seem to have evaporated. This trend has been particularly poignant in the presidential race where Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush are pulling no punches as we move closer to election on Nov. 7.
By far the worst negative attack has originated from Democrats. In Michigan, thousands of voters have received phone calls with recorded messages from two women implying that Gov. Bush — through his inaction while leading Texas — is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. One woman talks of how her husband died after receiving inadequate care at a nursing home, blaming Bush for failing to make improvements; the other woman discusses what she calls the Texas governor’s poor environmental record in the Lone Star state.
These phone messages — especially the one regarding the nursing home — are nothing more than scare tactics of a particularly low level. They do nothing to encourage discourse about the merits or policies of the two candidates; instead they insult voter intelligence by trying to frighten them away from voting for Bush.
Still, the Republicans are hardly exempt from taking a more negative turn as the election’s end nears. One of their most recent ads uses clips showing Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader questioning Gore’s environmental record. The Republicans seem to hold onto the hope that Nader’s words will sway more voters to turn away from Gore, giving Bush an easier chance to win the election.
Although Bush strategists may find this a sound tactic, it implies Bush cannot stand on his own record to win, and that he must turn to outside help to persuade voters not to vote for Gore. This also discounts the fact that Nader has belittled Bush’s commitment to the environment as well. The ad is not a sign of desperation on the part of the Republicans, but shows a readiness to play dirty as the election nears.
The New York senate race between first lady Hillary Clinton and Rep. Rick Lazio has also turned particularly nasty. Last week, the Clinton campaign received a $50,000 donation from a fund-raising event that was organized by a group that supports the Palestinian organization Hamas. Claiming ignorance, the campaign returned the money. However, this did not stop the Lazio campaign from sending out phone messages claiming that Clinton, by accepting the money, was linked to the terrorists who attacked the USS Cole while the battleship was being moored in Aden, Yemen, several weeks ago.
Even if the Clinton campaign knew that the organization supported Hamas in the first place, to claim such a link is tedious at best. The implications the Republicans are trying to draw are clear, but severely misguided. Although military actions and terrorist acts are all too often exploited by political campaigns to attempt to gain votes, the Lazio campaign’s use of the USS Cole is most heinous. Sailors died, regardless of whether the Clinton campaign accepted the money.
Soon, probably to the relief of many, the usual quota of campaign promises and mudslinging that candidates love to fulfill will end. It is unfortunate that they spend any of their time tearing each other down. The severity of attacks this year gives an indication to the current state of politics. We can only hope that the negative attacks will not dissuade people from voting in this crucial election. Politics would perhaps be more appealing to people if the negativity and attacks were kept to a minimum. It will be interesting to see how long it takes politicians to realize this.