There is no shortage of stupid campaign decisions, outrageously sleazy tactics, candidate meltdowns, and pitifully evasive debate replies. Picking the best – or is it worst? – such example is difficult because, as they say in the military, the environment is target rich. But here goes.
The award for the most pitifully evasive debate reply is a tie: Barack Obama and John McCain. Both men declined in two successive debates to answer how they might have to delay or alter their campaign pledges given the fact that the economic meltdown had drained the U.S. Treasury of an unanticipated $700 billion, to say nothing of the reduced tax revenue we can expect this year due to the recession. Both candidates danced and spinned but neither even approximated an answer. Joe Biden gets an honorable mention for suggesting a reduction in foreign aid, which is an entirely negligible part of the federal budget to begin with and is a cut that would offend no voters. Yeesh.
Worst candidate meltdown? Democratic Congressman Tim Mahoney from Florida rode to victory two years ago after incumbent GOP Representative Mark Foley got caught sending sexually suggestive emails to congressional pages. You would think Mahoney would have understood the ability of a sloppy personal life to adversely affect your career but….there he was, facing the cameras admitting multiple extra-marital affairs, although he denies firing an aide when their relationship went south and also denied paying $121,000 in hush money. Mahoney is now being sued for divorce and is on his way to an early retirement from the Congress. Good riddance!
The prize for the most ignorant attack came when GOP operatives accused the Obama campaign of "re-designing" the American flag to include a giant "O" for Obama, and placing these new flags behind Obama at a press conference. These GOP operatives thought the flag re-design was the height of hubris, an insult to America, another example of Obama’s elitism. Alas, the flag in question was the state flag of Ohio where Obama was holding his news conference.
The race for most outrageously sleazy campaign tactic was all ready to be engraved with Sarah Palin’s name for her infamous reference to "palling around with terrorists." But, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina topped that with an ad that implied her rival, Kay Hagen, went to a fundraiser sponsored by a group called "Godless Americans" when the group played no role in sponsoring it, although one of its members attended the event. The worst was yet to come: The ad finished with a photo of Hagen and a voice-over saying "There is no God!" But, the voice was not Hagen’s; it was just made to sound like hers. Now, that is sleazy.
Most stupid campaign decision? Not to vet Sarah Palin. Her near total ignorance of important national and international issues was an on-going thorn for the McCain campaign. While her many political gifts were apparent from the beginning, her lack of gravitas put McCain’s own judgment into question. The choice of a running mate is the one presidential-level decision a candidate makes, and McCain flubbed his.
So, dear readers, shout out with your best and worst campaign moments.
Michael Sean Winters