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New Campaign Ethics: Do Everything

In 2007, a friend and retired international campaign consultant predicted this about the 2008 presidential campaign: “The Democrats will do anything to get elected. But the Republicans will do everything to get elected.” Indeed he was prescient, since we have since witnessed yet another sleazy Republican campaign, a tradition going back to Watergate and continuing on with the George W. Bush stolen election in 2000 and the swift boat ads against John Kerry in 2004.

As a party ticket that prides itself for championing “ethics” and “reform”, John McCain and Sarah Palin should revisit the meaning of those words. Not only has Sarah Palin herself been found to have unlawfully abused her power as governor, the list of dirty negative tactics espoused and inspired by the McCain-Palin campaign is well documented:

1) Distorting Obama’s campaign positions, by calling his tax policy “socialism” and accusing him of “surrendering” in the Iraq war; 2) Implying that Obama is not patriotic, and is not a “real” American; 3) Stating that he consorts with friends of terrorists, based on his simply knowing now-reformed William Ayers as a teaching colleague and fellow board member; 4) Calling Obama an elitist (this from McCain who can’t recall how many homes he owns and Palin who spent $150,000 on her campaign wardrobe).

But by far the most egregious ethical lapse on the part of the Republican campaign and John McCain was the selection of Sarah Palin as vice-presidential candidate. You don’t have to dislike Palin to realize that she is woefully unqualified to be vice president, much less president. Leaders of both parties have said as much, including former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Lawrence Eagleburger.

Matthew Dowd, a former Bush campaign strategist, put it well in the New Yorker : “McCain ‘knows in his gut’ that Palin isn’t qualified for the job, ‘and when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with…He put the country at risk.’”

McCain’s decision to place Palin within immediate reach of the world’s most powerful leadership position was not just unethical, it was immoral. In the most important decision of his campaign, he did not choose “country first;” he chose to do everything to get elected.


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