Year after year, media mouthpieces call for an end to negative campaigning from both sides of the political spectrum, and in turn each side makes verbose claims that they will not engage in such actions. Yet year after year, both sides eventually engage this tactic.
From the 1800 presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, when Adams raised questions about Jefferson's relationship with his slave Sally Heming, to the 2004 race between John Kerry and George Bush Jr., when a not-for-profit organization attacked Kerry's war record and the validity of his purple hearts, the tradition of mudslinging has enjoyed a rich history. Now we are faced with two candidates who vowed against negative campaigning and who have failed to live up to their word.
Barack Obama said at a press conference on Dec. 15, 2007 that "[he does] not want to see research that is involved in trying to tear people down personally." Yet, even as far back as the primary he personally attacked the Clintons in a mailing that said "eight years of the Clintons, major losses for Democrats across the nation."
In recent days, Obama has escalated his attacks on McCain, claiming that his policies are the same as those of our current president, George W. Bush. This is certainly not a factual statement and is moreover an attempt to mislead the American people.
Obama is not the only one who has flip-flopped on this issue in the recent past. McCain, as recently as this January, blamed Mitt Romney's loss in the Iowa caucuses on his excessive negative campaigning.
This is in stark contrast to the McCain campaign advertisements that claim Obama will raise the middle class's taxes, which is not a truthful statement at all. Obama's tax plan only raises taxes for the top one percent of earners in the nation. This attempt at falsifying information and misleading the public predates and is just as bad as Obama's recent lies.
Both candidates should learn of the potential perils of negative campaigning. A decade ago, in the race for the Senior Senate seat from New York State, incumbent Republican Alfonse D'Amato held a slight lead going into the final week of campaigning when he referred to Charles Schumer as a "putzhead." D'Amato went on to lose the election by 10 points.
While this is an extreme example of negative campaigning, it is something to keep in mind in the wake of Sen. Obama's reference to McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate as "putting lipstick on a pig." Continued attacks of this nature may lead to disaster for either candidate.
In this election, we have two candidates who are attempting to appeal to the people as agents of change. I, for one, urge both candidates to actually practice what they preach and end the negative tactics that run so deep in this country's history.
James Bates is a sophomore biology and chemistry major who wants to know why we can't all just get along.