American campaigns are no stranger to falsehood, lies, and character attacks. That has been going on since the days of Washington and the rocky birth of our remarkable Democratic experiment.
However that does not make the practice appealing, and clearly in the current campaign it has been the McCain campaign that has gone the farthest to bring up irrelevant nonsense and distort the truth.
Following up on many of the right wing claims about Obama has been an exercise in frustration and shoddy thinking by Obama detractors. This has taken the form of crazy nonsense like the notion Obama was born in Kenya to juxtaposing Obama quotes to make a very reasonable statement seem unreasonable.
Just today I reviewed a bogus claim that Obama, writing at Daily KOS
two years ago, had called for removing moderates from the Senate. Incredibly the writer had simply taken something Obama said should NOT be done in the interest of moderate approaches and then lifted the words in such as way to make it appear to state opposite. These cases of blog fraud or incomprehensibly stupid lack of reading comprehension would not be so bad if they were not immediately picked up by other sites and presented as "fact" along with the misquotes or lies.
Even mainstream media "fact checking" is often very questionable. The latest "guilt by association" play suggests Obama is pals with a Palestinian activist named Khalidi, now a professor and consultant. One of the challenges in this case is that a John McCain board gave a Khalidi consultancy over $450,000 for projects polling in the middle east. Most of McCain's campaign has tried to rely on painfully weak connections to figures that mainstream Americans find objectionable in one way or another. Thankfully that strategy appears to have failed - and perhaps we can hope this is because we as voters have become more reasonable rather than simply because the McCain campaign failed to make the smears stick.
All the smears have happened within a context of an arguably very unqualified Republican VP nominee hit with abuse of power charges *during the campaign* and McCain's very challenged personal history. The Obama campaign has chose not to focus on the personalities and character of the opposition, and stayed squarely on message in a near-flawless and mostly positive campaign. Will this approach succeed? If so, can we expect future campaigns to take a higher road than in the past?