An old party game has people whispering a secret around a circle until, when it comes full circle, it is a totally different secret. This comes to mind because of a recent story about “outsourcing” background searches about vice-presidential nominees. To its discredit, the Obama campaign and related supportive “progressive” websites are issuing open-source invitations to the world at large to submit any stories they may have heard about the various individuals under consideration. They do not require that the stories be verified or verifiable.
Just when you think American politics has reached rock-bottom, something like this comes along. Has this great nation really descended into the cesspool of gossip, innuendo, and character assassination this process suggests? Now, someone—anyone—can slander a political figure and have the slander endlessly repeated by the political media and opposition political television spots. Accuracy, and integrity, have nothing to do with it. All you have to do is put the story “out there” and the subject of the slander is endlessly required to try to deny and disprove it. And the headline is always: “Senator so-and-so today denied….”
This process is beneath contempt. It is not clever. It is not smart. It is not honest. It is not American. And the fact that the Democratic party is promoting this process is appalling.
Anyone who has lived a long life and participated in American politics knows that the most qualified people in our country are not seeking political office, that the caliber and quality of public servants is not what it was in recent greater generations who asked what they could do for their country. It is not a question of wanting to serve your country and contribute to making it better. It is a matter of preserving personal dignity, honor, and self-respect.
Do we really want to open the most senior leaders of our nation to a garbage-slinging process in which any kind of rumor is added to a negative resume? Not too long ago, respectable media checked sources before printing a story. Then came the era of Murdoch when virtually anything got printed and the so-called mainstream media then felt obliged to repeat the story.
There was a time when I was repeatedly urged to sue media outlets for false and slanderous stories. But too few people know that, because of a Supreme Court case called New York Times vs Sullivan, the plaintiff in a libel suit must prove that the newspaper in question printed the story with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity and did so with malicious intent (“actual malice”). When was the last time you recall a public figure winning a libel suit?
So now we are selecting our leaders using a vicious hazing process in which political parties use the media, and its protections under the First Amendment and the Sullivan case, to engage in character destruction. It is not a question of “having nothing to hide.” It is a question of willingness to submit oneself and one’s reputation to an endless stream of false innuendo and twisted, inaccurate truths.
This is shameful and beneath a great nation.