American political culture: The next Superfund site

American politics have always been mean and nasty, but we’ve reached an era where the ad hominem attack has become the dive run of politics. It’s mainstream, and it’s been on display in the last Republican presidential debates. Texas Gov. Rick Perry took after former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney like a classic schoolyard bully.Perry repeatedly cast the debate rules aside so he could land the blows he wanted — most notably when he turned directly to his rival and bluntly declared that Romney had hired “illegals” to work on his home.Romney, who’s been so smooth in the rest of the debates, committed a handful of unforced errors in which he looked too calculating — the sin he is most frequently accused of. The former Massachusetts governor denied employing illegal immigrants at first — technically true — but then delivered this line in explaining what he said to the company who employed them at his home: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”He was visibly flustered when Perry interrupted him during the exchange, coming close to losing his temper at one point.For those of us who’ve seen the sausage made, witnessing that sort of behavior makes you feel ill. Those weren’t fictional characters from a lost “The West Wing” episode, they’re real people, with real families and real lives. But since Ed Muskie’s tearing up in New Hampshire, showing your humanity has become a political negative.Afterward, it can be hard to forgive. But that’s what Liz Patterson did when Bob Inglis owned up for the vicious 1992 congressional campaign. As reported in Monday’s The Herald-Journal, “Patterson said she knew that Inglis himself did not generate most of the negative attacks, but said he was responsible for what his campaign had produced.”In the piece, Inglis said that after he arrived in D.C., he felt shamed after attending a Bible study meeting. His aggressive U.S. Senate campaignagainst Fritz Hollings six years later says different, but it’s clear Inglis is working on becoming a better person.With a number of elected officials turning over their entire public persona to staffers and consultants, these situations can only become more likely. After all, it’s a lot easier to be vicious when you don’t have to meet the target face-to-face. The attitude can be summed up in a quote from Ollie North’s lead consultant in the ’94 Virginia Senate race: “Next time around, I cut the guy’s balls off.” Chuck Robb, who lost his next bid to George Allen, is a former Marine with a Bronze Star from two tours in Vietnam. No matter. He was the enemy.The standard was set. Issues matter only in as much as they can be used as wedge issues, with no respect to facts, intellectual honesty or the lives of who could be harmed. In a disturbing development, the body politic’s sickness went viral, infecting the world outside campaigns.

But maybe it was always thus. A message board poster on National Review Online this summer pointed to a story about the founding of Trinity College in D.C. Catholic University fought it, to a point. Apparently, American Political Culture doesn’t own the exclusive rights to “Nastiness”.

Soon the fledgling project was surrounded by rumor and innuendo. Joseph Schroeder, a professor of dogmatic theology at Catholic, relayed his objections to allies in the Vatican and began publishing broadsides in conservative newspapers. “We cannot discern any advantage gained by this newfangled rise of the New Woman,” he wrote. Fending off the anti-Trinity campaign fell to Euphrasia, a tireless networker, promoter, and fund-raiser who might have been a star in the university development world had she lived in a different time.

The face-off was dubbed by some the “War of 1897.” Catholic newspapers up and down the East Coast ran stories about the controversy. “The project of a University for the weaker sex,” said one pointed inquiry from Rome, “has made a disagreeable impression here.” Finally Sister Euphrasia determined to speak with the archbishop himself, who had fled the stifling summer heat for Atlantic City. . . . The archbishop was impressed by their case and their determination, and his support helped tip the battle in Trinity’s favor. (It didn’t hurt that the college’s supporters began pointing to their opponent Schroeder’s weakness for all-night sojourns in disreputable saloons.) By December the war had subsided. Trinity College enrolled its first students on November 3, 1900.

More than 100 years ago, even religious educators resorted to harming another person’s reputation, if it stood in the way of their objective. But, they didn’t set out to ground him into the earth — they exhibited some self-control.

Maybe if there was a little more restraint showed by campaigns and staff, from top to bottom, we’d all be better off.

J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr. is a General Practice Attorney in Columbia, South Carolina, concentrating in Probate & Estate Planning, Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law.

with Wes Wolfe. He’s written for 11 publications in five states, and is the proprietor of The Five Points Flood.

Posted in Legal Advice

18 thoughts on “American political culture: The next Superfund site

  1. Terri Mostiller on said:

    It’s already getting nasty. By the time elections come I will be sick of all of them and won’t want to vote for a single one of them. But I will. Save the money you spend on slinging mud at each other and help pay off the debt. I would vote for the first one of them to do that.

  2. John on said:

    Sadly for us all this behavior will continue until real “change” is made within our government. I watched some of the Rep debate and found that most of the candidates were not prepared for Perry in any way. He is direct, gets to the point and does not mince words. Which to me was refreshing for a change because I feel he spoke some words that most of us only shake our heads in disappointment daily. Sure, the government has run a scam on us for years, to withhold funds from the paychecks of millions of workers with the promise that “you will get it back when you retire” is a total farce. They have stolen from the fund for years and have given it to people that have never worked nor are citizens of our country… where is the fairness in that scenario. But when you shine a bright light on that situation the fingers start to point at the one that holds the lamp in effort to discourage anyone to believe it to be true. Funny how after Romney gets pounded and the polls come out with Perry at the lead he starts calling in favors and makes promises to others so they will throw their support and their campaign funds his way. Sure he was scared and he acted quickly to get others to discount is opponents. Romney scares the crud out of me, he is a career politician and looks way to slick. Newt is a very bright person and most likely the most qualified but is actually too smart for the public to vote for him since he is more of a theorist than a common man. Cain, although apparently bright would not have the patience to last in the beltway. Bachman…. should really shut her mouth and go sit in a corner. I think overall a Gingrich / Cain ticket would work for the country overall with knowledge and lack of fear to do the right thing. We can hope for the change we need since the whole hope and change we are subjected to with the current administration only caters to special interest groups and unions.

    I think we can compare our election process to a litter box… when it starts to stink… someone covers it up.

  3. John on said:

    Gingrich / Perry would work for me as well.

  4. SirBigSpur on said:

    Hey this sucks…where’s the college football blog entry?

  5. Randy on said:

    OK Bubba go ahead and open up the can. Politics, Here is a sugesstion that I would like to see done somewhere. I would love to see a Survey with an election ballot for SC or USA or whoever that lists the candidates….with NO party affiliation whatsover. NO straight ticket, NO way of telling which direction they supposedly lean. Let the people vote based on knowledge of the candidate that they have gathered. Just curious as to what would happen. My guess would be it would be defined by name recognition alone. Just curious?

  6. ACE on said:

    When are politicians going to realize they work for the PEOPLE of this great United States, not for themselves. Campaigns seem to be all about ME, ME, ME, and not for US, the citizens. Mud-slinging is as old as campaigning, and this blog said it best when referring to “classic schoolyard bullies.” Grow up! Also, when you run for public office, underline the word PUBLIC. If you have dirty laundry, it will be discovered and flaunted. Either bring the facts out yourself, or don’t run for office. Once there, however, please understand that your behavior in and OUT of the office is setting an example for the children and young people of our nation – future voters and persons who will one day be running the country themselves. PLEASE set a good example and STOP FOOLING AROUND with other people and our national heritage. It’s embarrassing.

  7. Tricia on said:

    I really like Herman Cain. Would suggest though that he change his 9-9-9 Plan to the “8.9-8.9-8.9 Plan” so that our Bible believers do not start screaming upside down 6-6-6. ha ha

  8. ben Moise on said:

    History will reveal that nasty politics, as thoroughly unpleasant as it is, is really nothing new locally or nationally. Our entire national political history is one long string of nasty political elections. We wrote the book on “Nasty” here in Charleston, so few people here are really surprised or put-out at the rather uncivil demeanor of the Republican debates. I personally think they are all losers and did nothing but their usual pandering. Qualified people will begin to find opportunities for jobs when the mind-boggling national debt and the constriction of credit are eliminated. As we have seen, Presidents are essentially powerless to get a handle on the economy. Our Congressional geniuses have the situation in a state of zero inertia and appear to be of no mind to get the ball rolling due to equal amounts of ideological mass on either side of “zero.”

  9. Anita on said:

    Let’s change the rules. If we – the people, require that congressman, senators and other politicians can only serve term limits and offer NO lifetime retirement benefits, or restrict their pay based on their performance, perhaps parasites would be less inclined to seek and maintain this lifestyle. Holding public office should be an honor, — close scrutiny has shown us that character and nobility is in short supply by many that choose to serve in this role. Why? Is it only the power hungry and corrupt that seek these positions? Do nice guys always finish last?

  10. mike on said:

    Bubba, seriously…The Republicans currently running are for the most part a bunch of morons! Perry? He’s the lost twin of that last idiot we had from Texas! Newt is a tired, old, mean-spirited douche…Cain started out well, but he’s shown he’s just another nut pandering ot the nutty side of the party…Bachman is an idiot and a nut…White-toast Romney is the only one that’s somewhat “normal” but he’s as boring as Al Gore!!…Please, I’d rather read about your dang Clemsun Tigers!! :)
    p.s. I’m sending Garcia up to Clemson to host a big blowout party for Boyd and Watkins!! :)

  11. BW on said:

    All the negative mud slinging needs to stop. Voters are intelligent enough to do their own research on all the candidates and decide who they want. Everyone of them makes promises they never keep. It has turned into a he said -she said instead of what is best for our country. Now let’s play some football !!!!

  12. Mary on said:

    HATE politicians because they all act like children. It boils down to: Baby boomers need jobs and to know that their social security will be available when we get ready to retire, and I don’t want to wait until I’m 72 to retire!!!! Healthcare is going to become a nightmare problem as well. So who ever has a good workable solution to these problems will get my vote. Sorry I don’t see anyone running who can ask for my vote right now! Yep, this is one sided, MY INTERESTS, how can any one person POSSIBLE please everyone. They can’t. Let’s hope they can at least deal with these two issues. I don’t want to be an old lady living on a park bench and standing in a free clinic line for hours.

  13. carolyn on said:

    Interesting to see how many ways you can answer a question without really answering it. Maybe they are better politicians than they appear. I really am enjoying my football. Clemson and Carolina, South that is, more and more. Perhaps I can get involved in Monday night football soon. thanks for your blogs, they are all great.

  14. Mary Alexander on said:

    I did not listen to whole debate, but I am not wild about Rick Perry…I love Herman Cain, but I am not sure he is “presidential” enough…whatever that means! I am just glad they have done away with the bell so we don’t have to listen to the dogs barking at the front door everytime someone goes over their time limit.

  15. Jay on said:

    This election Needs More Toppings!

  16. Larry Reid on said:

    “John Adams is a blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who wants to start a war with France. When he’s not busy importing mistresses from Europe, He’s trying to marry his daughter to one of the sons of King George” – Thomas Jefferson campaign for President, 1800.
    “Jefferson is the son of a half-breed indian squaw raised on hoe-cakes; and Hamilton is a Creole bastard brat of a scotch peddler” – John Adams campaign for President
    “You hatchet-faced nutmeg dealer” – Stephen Douglas to Abe Lincoln.
    “The Whigs have accused Van Buren of being a Catholic. All this slander has been disproved, but there is ‘proof’ that Harrison ‘has done more towards establishing the Roman Catholic religion in the Mississippi Valley, and more towards uniting Church and State than any man living . . .Ye abhorrers of the Pope and of Anti Christ, how can ye support Gen. Harrison?’” 1836 Indiana Democrat newspaper editorial.

    Yeah, this shit has been going on for years…it’s a great way to avoid talking about ‘real’ issues. I see no one in the republican camp worthy of my vote. I wonder who the dems will field? Hmmmm.

  17. elrae on said:

    best thing that could happen to us is a deadly case of some flu strain hitting the US capital complex. Few or no survievers

  18. Cooter Brown on said:

    Civilitie in politicks iz neitha possable ore dezireable. Politicks iz a blood sport– always haz bin. Thare iz nuthin new heere–look back in da records all da way bak t’ Adams an’ Jefferson’s run fer pressident of dese united States ov amerika.

    Since it reallie dont matta if O-bomer or Romnie win as far az domestick ore foreign polovie goes, let’s enjoy th’ show. Perhaps get Mista Jerry Springer t’ host th’ next debate. I’d lay down my pipe and mason jar of homemaid licker an’ watch that! Let’sak da mosst ov th’ sham!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>