Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Campaign Trail of Tears

The Democratic presidential candidate debate Monday night in South Carllina at times assumed all the trappings of a finger-pointing feud between opposing football fans.

Hillary was a coporate shill for Wal Mart. Barack worked for a slumlord. Hillary twists facts. Barrack won't take responsibility for his actions. And what about that pesky Bill?

In the middle of this spat sat John Edwards, looking for all theworld like a guy trying to mediate a rancorous divorce proceeding.

The media laps this up, of course. It's great political theater and it gives the assembled reporters something different to write about after hearing the same stump speech five times a day. But if you're interested in positions and issues, well, that gets lost in the sound and fury.

I liken it to making a choice from a ring full of boxers. The one with the biggest roundhouse right wins.

All of this took place on a day when the nation payed homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who embraced nonviolence as a political strategy. On more than one occasion, the candidates speculated that Dr. King would have been proud to see a woman and an Afican American contesting for the highest office in the land.

Perhaps. But I suspect Dr. King would also have been saddened by the level of personal attacks that have surfaced in the race. Not only is the tone of the race divisive, but race, gender,religion and age have become issues, issues you would have thought we were past inthis country.

Hillary Clinton is both a victim of and an advocate of gender politics. She has lashed out at the "old boys network" and accused fellow candidates, all male, of ganging up on her.

And when her eyes welled up and she became emotional while campaigning in New Hampshire, intended or not, it may have won her that state's primary by capturing the female vote.(Interestingly enough, when Ed Muskie got teary eyed in NewHampshire in 1972 over attacks on his candidacy, it was largely seen as costing him the election).

On the other hand, Clinton has been called a "bitch," rumored tobe a lesbian and criticized because when she displays leadership, she is somehow seen as less feminine.

Barack Obama has his own mountians to climb. He's not only African American, he's criticized for not being black enough, not even as black as Bill Clinton who is white. On top of that, he has been accused in anonymous Internet postings of being a Muslim who took his oath of office on aQur'an and refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

For the record, hehas been a member of a large Christian church in Chicago for more than 20 years and has led the U.S. Senate in the pledge.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon who has been forced to defend his faith, much as John F. Kennedy spoke about his Catholicism in 1962. One Internet report described Mormonism as some kind of devil worship. During the holidays, some South Carolina voters got a Christmas card, purportedly from Romney. Inside were references to his Mormon faith, including a defense of thechurch's former practice of polygamy.

A flier distributed in South Carolina accused John McCain offathering a "Negro child" (McCain's wife adopted an orphan in Bangladesh years earlier) and has been accused of selling out his fellow POWs when he was held prisoner in North Vietnam. McCain, 71, is also too old to run for the presidency, according to Chuck Norris, a Mike Huckabee supporter and Grade B actor whose thespian abilities apparently exceed his IQ.

Speaking of Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher, two evangelical pastors in Iowa who are personally supporting the candidate received anonymous mailings warning that their churches risk sanction by the Internal Revenue Service if they become too involved in politics.

If Dr. King returned, he would probably believe we would have grown and matured since he last walked this earth.He would be wrong.

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