Attack Ad Ethics: Rep. Alan Grayson, Sinking to Expectations

Rep. Alan Grayson (D) of Florida has his defenders, which means you can pretty much forget about fair play when you are dealing with any of them, too. The Florida Congressman is infamous for saying and repeating outrageous things about opponents and refusing to acknowledge that he was wrong or inappropriate. As I have written here often, some unethical conduct is so egregious that it precludes the possibility of it being an aberration or a mistake, and Grayson could be the poster boy for that principle. He has little regard for fairness, civility and truth, if defying any of these serves his purposes. Thus it is both unsurprising and comforting that the most unethical attack ad in this early campaign season come from him—comforting, because it proves the point. For Alan Grayson, unfair and dishonest attacks aren’t mistakes. They are a habit.

In a TV spot called “Draft Dodger, Grayson accuses his opponent of evading the Vietnam War draft, because “he doesn’t love this country.” With a backdrop of military graves and a bugle playing “Taps” being played on a bugle. the ad shows Republican challenger Daniel Webster’s face, as a slef-described “old soldier” intones sadly,

“Daniel Webster was called to serve our country six times during the Vietnam War. Each time Daniel Webster refused the call to service. It breaks an old soldier’s heart to think that Webster could ever be elected to Congress. He doesn’t love this country the way I do. Daniel Webster doesn’t care about us.”

The ad concludes with a printed message that reads, “If Daniel Webster didn’t serve America then, why should he serve now?”

The accusation against Webster is unjustified, and outrageously so. Like most students during the Vietnam era, Daniel Webster requested and received deferments for military service that allowed him to continue his studies. One of these was while he was a senior in high school, the others while he was completing college. He was not “called,” nor did he “refuse to serve.” Unlike many in his generation, Webster voluntarily reported for a draft physical once his studies ended. Because of medical problems with his feet, he was classified 4-F, ineligible for military service.

No one could look at Webster’s draft records—and  Grayson has copies of them—and honestly interpret them to mean that he was a “draft dodger.” FactCheck.org, which will be busy this Fall, approached the Grayson camp for an explanation of how it could defend its ad. The jaw-droppingly lame response: Webster made a personal choice not to go into the military, and if he had really intended to serve after graduation, he would have signed up for officer training and undergone a physical examination during his junior year in college. This is laughable: not volunteering for service is not the same thing as refusing to serve, and failing to use his study time as preparation for future military service is not remotely proof that Webster wasn’t prepared to serve after college.

Meanwhile, Grayson himself never spent a second in the military. He was too young to serve in Vietnam, but as FactCheck’s Laura Seligman points out, nothing stopped him from enlisting. By the cracked logic of his own accusation against Webster, Grayson “refused to serve” too. He now claims, however, that if he had been in school during the Vietnam War, he would have dropped out of school and enlisted.

But why would anyone believe Alan Grayson about anything?

3 thoughts on “Attack Ad Ethics: Rep. Alan Grayson, Sinking to Expectations

  1. Man I hate election season. It’s like some kind of never ending horror movie, except that this “show” will have lasting effects on an entire nation.

      • Didn’t that also happen in “Brewster’s Millions,” with Richard Pryor? Proves that even in the 80s, people were tired of the ridiculous incompetence of politicians.
        As a New Yorker, upstate, not downstate, I’m having difficulty making any type of choice because the characters all seem full of it. Spitzer and Hevesi might not be on the ticket, but their clones seem to be and all I hear is how each candidate will bring “change.” It might have worked for Obama – people were desperate to believe in someone – but most people are know what “meaningful change,” not just “change.”

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