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.
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.