In John F. Kennedy’s 1961 presidential inaugural speech, he said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Today’s politicians seem more interested in using America—or the American media—to propagate political smear campaigns against their opponents. In the last several elections, I’ve learned very little about what each candidate thinks he/she can do for the country. I haven’t heard a lot about the candidate’s credentials or political views. Instead, each candidate seems more focused on defending themselves against attack or slinging mud at the other candidates. These campaigns have been so effective, many candidates are defeated before we learn much about them.
Herman Cain seemed to be a fine candidate for president. He’s a pro-business family man who had a lot to offer to the Republican campaign—until rumors of infidelity and sexual harassment surfaced, and the media went on the attack.
Television, radio, and more recently, the internet, have increased the speed at which political rumors fly. If a candidate steps out of a cab at midnight in New York with lipstick on his collar and his fly open, there’ll be a video on You Tube before dawn and a news broadcast at noon.
The term “living in a fishbowl” has never been more true than in today’s media hungry society.
But political smear campaigns are nothing new. The mid eighteen hundreds was a time of anti-Catholic sentiment in the America. During Abraham Lincoln’s political campaign, his opponents spread rumors that he was a Catholic.
And in 1884, Grover Cleveland’s political opponents insisted the presidential candidate had an illegitimate child. Their rally cry became: “Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Off to the White House, ha ha ha!”
Woodrow Wilson was a brilliant student, teacher, and statesman. He led the nation through the First World War. And yet, he wasn’t immune to nasty political rumors. First Lady, Ellen Axon Wilson died just one year after her husband was elected president. When Wilson remarried a year later, rumor mongers claimed he murdered his first wife so he could marry his true love.
The rumors didn’t stop him from getting re-elected.
Rumors that President Obama is a Muslim and not a US citizen didn’t prevent him from getting elected either.
Now it’s election time again. The old rumors are resurfacing and the President has the added burden of defending his presidency. But he’s not alone in the political hot seat.
Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife accused him of asking for an open marriage while he was already engaged in an affair with his current wife. And according to some other political rumors, Mitch Romney is Mexican.
So, what’s fact and what’s fiction? Is there a single candidate running for office who doesn’t have a ghost in his/her closet?
This election, Americans will have to vote for the candidate whose “ghosts” are least likely to affect his/her ability to lead a nation. Either that, or flip a coin.