중앙데일리

The fallout of dirty politics

Feb 23,2007
An innocent little girl plucks petals off a daisy as she counts, “1, 2, 3....” An ominous male voice begins a countdown to what turns out to be a nuclear explosion. The little girl’s face turns to horror as the mushroom cloud rises. President Lyndon Johnson of the Democratic Party ran that notorious “Daisy Girl” ad in 1964 as a weapon to frighten voters into thinking Barry Goldwater of the Republican Party was capable of starting a nuclear war. The nuclear war issue was originally raised by fellow Republican nominee Nelson Rockefeller, who latched on to something Barry Goldwater had said and wrote a letter to throngs of people asking, “Do you want to be in a room with a man who has his finger on the button?”
Lee Atwater, the poster boy for negative campaign techniques, orchestrated one of the dirtiest campaigns in history during the 1988 presidential campaign for George Bush senior. He distorted the words of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, using the Willy Horton case to stir up racial tension and claim Mr. Dukakis was soft on crime. Lee Atwater was also behind the release of a letter during the 1992 presidential campaign which showed Democratic candidate Bill Clinton trying to avoid military service when he was younger; he also orchestrated a press conference by Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have had an affair with President Clinton.
This kind of black propaganda needs to stop. Of course people recognize that a healthy campaign entails revealing to the public objective information regarding the candidate’s abilities, temperament and moral character. Examining a candidate’s past is an important criterion when deciding how a candidate will perform in a crisis; it also reveals what kind of policies will be enacted and the kind of appointments he or she will make if elected.
The Chappaquiddick incident wounded Senator Edward Kennedy’s political career, as it demonstrated questionable courage and inability to perform in a crisis. When he ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency 11 years after the 1969 incident, the same questions were raised again.
In 1987, presidential candidate Gary Hart bowed out of the race because of a lie rather than a scandal. He had adamantly denied having an extramarital affair before a picture of Donna Rice sitting on his lap surfaced in the papers.
Experts say that negative campaigns are effective. They are more interesting than a competition of policies.
However, negative campaigns are a double-edged sword. Both candidates can end up losing.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Kim Jin-kook [jinkook@joongang.co.kr]


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