What is increasingly disturbing is that so many of our representatives and high elected officials appear to have no idea what ethical conduct is. This leads them, as Donald Trump did in the Republican candidates debate, to boast about their unethical conduct in public and assume that the public, as well as the news media, will nod approvingly. It is more than disturbing that they are usually correct, and thus are both exploiting the nation’s ethics rot and contributing to it as leaders are uniquely able to do.
This was what the leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid did when he expressed no remorse for lying about Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign (“Romney lost, didn’t he?”). Now, in a signed article in Politico, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has explained how she gained re-election by manipulating the democratic process in Missouri. Obviously, she sees nothing the matter with what she did: the article is essentially one long gloat.
With it, she marks herself as a cheat, a fick, and an ethics corrupter, as well as a disgrace.
But she’s a winner, so it’s all good!
In the essay called “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” McCaskill explains how, after her campaign identified Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin as the weakest Republican candidate to run against her, it ran cognitive dissonance ads engineered to increase his support among the most ignorant and extreme Republican primary voters. She writes,
So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat? Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad….Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin…then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. ..As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign..
Let me explain this so even the most hopeless “the ends justify the means” partisan can understand it. The idea behind democracy is to have the best possible candidates run for office, and to give the public good choices rather than lousy ones. Each party has an obligation to run a fair competition to find the candidate it believes is 1) best qualified for the office and 2) most able to prevail in the election. It is not fair, ethical or legitimate politics for the opposing party to interfere with this process to ensure weaker competition. This is not fair to the public, which has a right to have a good choice, not a horrible one. It is also undemocratic. It is wrong, no matter how clever it is.
What McCaskill so smugly admits is in the same category as false flag tactics, in which a group attacks itself in an offensive way using agents pretending to represent the opposition. It’s a lie. I can prove it’s a lie: Would McCaskill’s tactic with her “dog whistle” ads have worked if the public knew that her attacks on Akin were actually intended to advance his candidacy? Of course not: their success depended on the perception that McCaskill’s campaign didn’t want Akin to run against her. The fact that the ads’ attacks on Akin expressed their truthful opinion of him doesn’t make the ads honest, it makes them misleading and deceitful. Deceit is just a kind of lie that uses the literal truth to deceive, and is popular among unethical politicians. It is Bill Clinton’s native tongue, for example.
Both parties engage in these dirty tricks, but I have never seen the successful candidate boast about them. That’s a new low, and the low was already well below sea level. Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries because he thought Hilllary would be the more formidable candidate. Cheating. Democrats spent money to keep Ralph Nader off as many state ballots as they could. Cheating. Both parties were accused of running undercover third party candidacies in local elections to split the votes of the opposing party. Cheating. Both parties used mysterious and apparently unaffiliated groups to run offensive ads against their own candidates. Cheating. This is Saul Alinsky territory, and it is totalitarian in origin, the embodiment of “by any means necessary.”
When Richard Nixon’s team of dirty tricksters pulled these kind of things, as when they sabotaged Edmund Muskie’s campaign—Nixon wanted McGovern to run, of course— by using the forged “Canuck” letter, it was widely condemned by both parties and the news media as symptomatic of the vile ethics vacuum that eventually produced Watergate. Now a Democratic Senator is publicly boasting about a strategem from the same Stygian depths. “I won, didn’t I?”
This is simple and obvious to decent and honest people, but to unethical ficks like McCaskill, Reid, Limbaugh and others (but remember, Rush is just a paid loud mouth, not a U.S. Senator), it isn’t. Let the other party choose its candidate without outside interference. As an American, you should want the strongest and most competitive ballot choices, not the most lopsided. As a candidate, you should want to win by showing that you have strong policy positions, good character and, skill at governing, not just that you are superior to a pathetic boob you tricked the opposing party into nominating “so you could beat him.”
I don’t know if McCaskill’s confession means that the Democrats’ ethics rot has progressed further than the Republican equivilent. I do know that she has proven herself to be an unworthy and untrustworthy leader who does have sufficient respect for the democratic process, and that her party has no problem with that.
Res ipsa loquitur.
25 thoughts on “Senator McCaskill, A Cheater And Proud Of It”
Jack, I don’t disagree but I think you’re letting the primary voters off the hook. They had an obligation in all of this and they decided they wanted mister “legitimate rape” and they’re probably the same ones who are supporting Donald Trump now.
I can agree that McCaskill didn’t deserve to win, but I’m just as sure that the Republicans deserved to lose. Nothing the other party does justifies nominating a buffoon.
Irrelevant to the post. Completely.
Sounds like someone is testing to see how much more the voting public will accept in terms of unethical behavior. This, right when we’re all watching Trump doing the exact same thing to Hillary’s benefit with collusion from the Clinton machine.
This is the national disgrace we have come to accept as politics as usual.
It hits me that this can’t be a problem just on the Democrat side, but we don’t know that because Republicans don’t brag about it. Maybe they just have enough shame to know it’s wrong and not to be proud of it.
On the other hand, at least they are transparent!
While I think you properly call this unethical for all the reasons you state, it was neither lying in the technical sense nor was it deceitful, more broadly understood, since it was actually promoting the very things that the audience wanted to know about the candidate. At worst – and it’s a bad worst – the dog whistling was keeping the non-audience from knowing these things, but that was not so much deceiving them as allowing them to continue to be ignorant. It’s a case of “why tell a lie when the truth will do?”.
This audience is not well served by shifting the terminology to suit like that, not only because it sets people up for faulty diagnoses but also because it encourages bad habits of analysis in other respects.
It is deceit, by definition. Deceit is a lie. Check your definitions.
You’re assuming your conclusion. It’s manipulative, but it’s not deceitful: it was selectively giving one group accurate information, but it was not deceiving the other group, rather allowing them to remain uninformed. This is comparable to lying by omission, but not identical to it (as that other group did, in fact, have that information available to it from multiple sources, and no doubt some few diligent members of that group got that information from one or more of those). And that was what I was trying to tell you – that you were running your definitions in the wrong way.
So long as you think of this as lying, you are damaging your analytical toolkit by using the wrong tool for the job.
Using technically accurate information to intentionally deceive is lying. Withholding information the is key to understanding a statement or fact is a lie—it will support a perjury charge, for example. Your saying it isn’t just indicts your understanding of basic terms.
Reading this makes me want to take another shower.
It would be a useful exercise for a historian to document how many ethical campaigns have been run where the candidate actually prevailed. My guess is there hasn’t been that many.
This happens at the individual level too. There are voters who switch political parties so they can vote for the absolute worst candidate in the primary in the hopes that their candidate will win Or, if they are a Democrat in a solidly red district or a Republican in a solidly blue district, they switch parties (and acknowledge defeat) just so they can vote for the candidate in the opposite party closest to their views.
As a corollary to this, I’ve found a disturbing trend among some of my Democrat friends — they are absolutely gleeful over the possibility of Trump getting the nomination because they feel it would cement a Democratic win.
I can’t get on the Trump train — what if he managed to win? We’ve had surprising election results in the past. I hope that Kasich starts to poll better — right now, he is the most attractive Republican candidate to me.
I wish he’d let me coach him on presentation. If he said “You know what?” one more time, I was going to put my foot through the TV.
Either Trump winning the nomination or Trump running third party would basically guarantee a Democrat win. I think that those are unlikely things to happen, but if they did… Is that really how you want to win? America has had such absolute shit choices the last few cycles. I would love to see some genuinely competent, ethical people on your podium…. It almost wouldn’t matter what side they fell on at that point.
Romney was so shitty wasn’t he?
Romney was the best you’ve had in a very long time, and he wasn’t great.
Who was the last “great” candidate from either party, defined as “known to be great before being elected”? Romney might have been a great President….he never got the chance. Clearly there was no reason to expect Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, Gore, Kerry, or McCain to be great. We know Bush 1 and 2, Carter, and Obama are anything but great. Nobody expected Reagan or Nixon or Ford to be great. People thought LBJ was great when he was elected the first time…but he wasn’t. JFK is called great now, but he wasn’t.
Ike was a great candidate the first time. Nobody had high hopes for FDR coming in.
I think the last President anyone saw as great coming in was Jefferson! And he’s over-rated.
I said “shit choices” and I’m going to stand by that, especially the choice part. Candidates aren’t often great figures before election, and the ones that are tend to disappoint… But there hasn’t been a slam dunk good choice in a very long time. Between poor records, awkward personalities, bad choices in running mates, and a boatload of stupid policy, I think that America has made a habit of voting for the candidate they hate less, as opposed to the person they think is best.
I’m beginning to like the concept of jungle primaries or jungle elections… Or at least a modified version thereof-
where the 2 most popular candidates (regardless of party) go to a run-off. This almost always guarantees a majority party candidate which is good, but then the opposition can vote for whoever they feel will temper or moderate a little bit of the 2 remaining, which would probably also be good.
Though this is very open to finagling and false candidacies…which is why I say “a modified version”. I just haven’t decided yet what the best modifiers would be.
What does this say about McCaskill’s confidence in her ability to convince Missouri voters of the rightness of her position, her party’s position, and her quality as a candidate?
A lot, I reckon. All of it bad. What this says to me is the equivalent of McCaskill offering this:
“I was afraid I would lose because I suck as a candidate, my positions are not majoritarian, popular, or principled, and neither are those of my party. Therefore, in order to ensure that I won, I had to play dirty, dishonest tricks. You should be proud of me.”
The ick factor, even if only tangentially applicable here, is high. Echoing the sentiments of Beth just above, I’m glad I read this before I took my shower.
The GOP is probably involved in something like this right now. Obviously they are trying to manipulate the Primaries to arrive at a Jeb Bush Nomination. One way is to keep “The Donald” talking and roiling the waters Trump, on the other hand, won’t run as a 3rd Party Candidate because his ego couldn’t take the “loser” tag, because he is absolutely sure to lose. The GOP is banking on the Voters being scared of the 3rd Party, and getting them to “unite” behind the Permanent Political Class Candidate. If Jeb wins, great, but if he doesn’t, nothing changes anyway because the Government is still split and the Career Politicians remain protected.
I don’t see the Jeb Bush favoritism, and if I saw it, I wouldn’t understand it. He’s a weak candidate. And he won’t be nominated.
I agree. It won’t be Bush or Trump. Eventually the party will coalesce behind a candidate with cross-over appeal to both establishment and more conservative types. Rubio is my best guess but it could be several others.
A weak candidate, he is. I am not as sanguine as you that he won’t be nominated.
I was right about Hillary! (Or will be.)
In her next essay McCaskill will brag about sabotaging the President’s negotiations with Vietnam, bombing thousands of Cambodian civilians, reducing the interstate speed limit to 50 mph, and wiretapping her opponents’ offices.