Truth is the Victim in Presidential Campaign

Ana Veciana Suarez
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Summer has slipped into memory, school buses are rolling down our streets, and the presidential campaign is in full swing. Time for someone to save us from the god-awful mudslinging. I can’t remember political ads ever being so negative or deceptive. Even for me — someone who grew up in the rough and tumble world of Cuban exile politics, then followed the local and national scene as a journalist — these barely disguised attempts at “truthiness” are a huge turn-off. I find them disgusting, irritating and insulting. Pundits and regular folks on both sides of the aisle have expressed similar feelings. A study by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal showed Barack Obama and Mitt Romney with “very negative” ratings, most likely in reaction to the spate of negative ads. And a Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll found that 78 percent of respondents felt frustrated by the tone of the campaigns. “The American people,” the Knights of Columbus’ press release concluded, “want and deserve civility and a conversation on the issues rather than the personal vilification of political opponents.” Amen — and good luck. Apparently, neither camp plans to stop the distortion and dishonesty. On the contrary. The vitriol is only growing louder the closer we get to November, and nowhere is this more evident than in our very own battleground state, Florida. We’re in a tight race all right. A race to the bottom, a run to deceit, a sprint to impunity. Truth has become like Silly Putty. Massage, mold and manipulate it any way you want, any way you can. No wonder we, the electorate, are so distrustful and skeptical of the very people who claim they can lead us out of this economic morass. Playing fast and loose with the truth is as old as politics, but experts told the Associated Press the volume and audacity of these distortions is unprecedented — even as more organizations spring up to check the accuracy of politicians’ whoppers. Neil Newhouse, Romney’s pollster, told ABC/Yahoo News that he shrugs off the inaccuracies. “Fact checkers,” he said, “come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and you know what? We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Alrightee then. That explains why vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan delivered an acceptance speech at the GOP convention that stretched truth like the elastic band on a too-small skirt. If Romney’s people are so cavalier with the truth, can I trust what he says about his tax returns? Let’s not play favorites. Obama supporters produced an ad that linked a woman’s cancer death to the layoff of her steelworker husband by Romney’s Bain Capital. Really? Even Obama supporters I know winced at this one. All this fact-twisting doesn’t bode well for next month’s presidential debates. We probably won’t hear anything but lies, damned lies and statistics. And we deserve so much more. The Hubby, who has watched an inordinate amount of TV lately, suggests Romney and Obama swipe a move from the playbook that therapists use for counseling sessions. Instead of assailing the other guy, each candidate should focus on “I-messages.” I favor. I will. I oppose. I believe. It’s an idea that the optimists among us, and maybe the fools, hope will catch on.