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Archive for August, 2012

In the old days we would call this an essay contest. Essays, however, are long and take a lot of time to write, whereas blog posts are short and don’t require that much time. So here’s a blog post contest. Write a post in response to this question:

What is the worst political ad of all time?

Consider it a nomination. You have to persuade the judge, me, that your candidate is the best, or I should say the worst one. I should not have any doubts about why you picked it.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Make the post self-contained. It can include a link to the ad, but I won’t go to look for the ad on my own. Judgments for quality are based entirely on the content of your post, not on the ad or anything else outside the piece.
  • Blog posts vary a lot in length, from rather short to rather long. Use your judgment. Write as much as you need to. A 3,000 word essay is probably too long.
  • Don’t assume your audience has seen the ad. Give the ad some context, and give your judgment of it some context.

Submission:

  • Send the link for your post to steveng @ techwritepublishing.com. Make Blog Post Contest the first three words in your subject line. If you do not have a blog or any place to post your entry, write to me to work something out.
  • Submit your entry by November 6, 2012. That’s election day, but of course your ad can come from any election, any year.
  • You can correct and revise your entry right up until November 6. No revisions after that!

Winners:

  • $50 for gold, $25 for silver, $12.50 for bronze.
  • Links publicized in The Jeffersonian, of course.
  • Boasting rights for an award-winning post.

Thanks for your interest, everyone. Please send the link for this post to your friends. In fact, if you want to collaborate with a friend to write your post, that’s fine, too! No fighting over the prize money.

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By now you have probably heard about the latest ad from the Obama campaign, I mean Priorities USA, a group that speaks for the campaign. The Democrats saw how well swift boating worked in 2004, and they certainly don’t intend to let the new tools of slander go unused.

Slander and scurrility have been a stock part of American political campaigns for a long time. What seems different now is the speed with which they do their work. In a matter of weeks, the swift boaters brought down John Kerry, a true war hero with courage to stand against the Vietnam war when he returned home. His opponents in 2004 hated his anti-war stand, but they couldn’t get him on that. People know Kerry was right: it was a bad war and as a country we were wrong to wage it. That does not make the soldiers who went there unworthy of our admiration.

Unable to get him for telling the truth, the swift boaters claimed he lied about his service in order to win decorations he didn’t deserve. Can you think of a political lie more disgraceful than that? A young man goes to war and suffers wounds as he leads his crew in battle, and years later his countrymen say he lied in order to get a Purple Heart.

Kerry was correct: this lie was beneath contempt. It did not deserve a response. Yet here we are, in a summer election season eight years later, and the swift boaters’ example appears everywhere in our political culture. The Obama campaign finds a bitter man, Joe Soptic, who holds Mitt Romney responsible for his wife’s death. Like the swift boaters, the Democrats who created this ad don’t care whether Soptic’s accusation is true or not. They only care whether the ad will help them win the election in November. I’ll tell you something: a party that is willing to run an ad like this one is a party that is willing to steal the election. It won’t matter how many votes Romney gets: the incumbent will win. Why? In this political environment, the swift boaters will find a way.

I remember coming home on election night, November 2, 2008. I turned on the television to see the returns. The newscasters talked as if Kerry had already won, though they had not officially called the election yet. Exit polls showed Kerry running ahead of Bush in key swing states east of the Mississippi: Ohio and Pennsylvania. With those states, plus other large blue ones such as New York and California, Kerry was set to finish with more than 270 electoral votes.

Then suddenly, the newscasters turned about. Talk of Kerry’s victory ceased abruptly. It seemed as if someone had spoken into their earpieces, “Stop! Stop this talk about Kerry. You’ve made a mistake. Bush is going to win.” How could we know that Bush would win? Well, we couldn’t know that, but not so long after the newscasters’ turnabout, we received reports about fishiness in Ohio. We heard about the techniques used there to keep urban, Democratic voters out of the final tally.

All of a sudden, Ohio’s electoral votes went to Bush instead of Kerry. That was enough to give the election to Bush: one large state. Like Nixon in 1960, Kerry chose not to contest the results in Ohio, though I don’t see how it would have caused him or the country any harm to do so. Altogether, Bush was fortunate to have a Republican secretary of state in Florida in 2000, and a Republican secretary of state in Ohio in 2004. Having the state’s senior election official on your side can help when the count is close.

I actually don’t know what happened in Ohio in 2004. I wish I did. I wish Kerry would tell us what he knows about the outcome in Ohio, or why he decided not to contest it. Bush’s margin there ended at a little under 120,000 votes. Kerry said that was too big a difference, and left it at that. He must have thought, in our system a recount is the only way to dispute an election outcome. A recount would not overturn a difference of more than 100,000 votes, however numerous the voting irregularities.

The significant thing is that after the way Bush got into office in 2000, no one except hard core supporters had any reason to regard him as a legitimate leader. The way he and his people conducted their campaign through the summer of 2004 just confirmed Bush’s unfitness for office. President Obama now makes his trek down the same path. He’s not asking us to vote for him because he wants to lead us somewhere we haven’t been before. He’s asking us to vote for him because his opponent is a shithead who permits a former employee’s spouse to die of cancer, a claim that’s untrue on its face. No one can respect a president who runs an ad like that. I should add that you look at the advertisements Romney ran against his opponents during the Republican primary season, and you won’t find a lot to like.

As I observed at the outset, the swift boaters set new standards of dishonesty for our political culture in 2004. They are not high ones. To work with standards this low, you have to step over them. Be sure you don’t step in anything soft as you pass through.

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Thought Nazis

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.  The legislation appropriately outlawed discriminatory practices of government based on race, color, religion or national origin.  But, it also outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in so-called public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce (Titles II and VII).  Controversial to say the least, unconstitutional to say the most, the Act prohibited private businesses from having free rein in terms of who they serve and employ.  As Congressman Ron Paul has noted, “The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract…  The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.”

Recently, there has been a big stink made about the anti-same sex marriage comments of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy.  Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has threatened to block permits for the fast food chicken chain to operate in his ward.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino issued his own threat to the company by stating, “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

What ‘s interesting is that the comments of Dan Cathy broke no laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet these politicians are condoning taking his property rights away from him without constitutionally guaranteed due process of law.

Now, there is apparently no way for Moreno and Menino to legally deny permits to Chick-fil-A based solely on the comments of its president.  But, in this era of the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, this incident further raises serious questions about the future of our constitutionally protected liberties.

In the first place, will our elected officials eventually have the power to personally deny property rights to individuals or businesses based on what they believe or the words they utter from their lips?  In essence, this is what Moreno and Menino are advocating.

Secondly, what does the future hold for freedom of speech?  This country was founded on the words of Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  Thus we have always believed that even the most vile, despicable speech should be protected.  Cathy’s speech was neither and was a simple proclamation of what many Americans believe themselves.  Are we almost to the point where the oppressive power of government can be employed to crush all opinion not held by our governing elites?  Are we willing to allow them to use brute force to destroy the First Amendment and manipulate society to further their ends and agenda?  Have we, as a people, forgotten that the best means to protest or condone ideas is through the free market?

In the final analysis, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened the door for this ridiculous episode.  By codifying in law this massive violation of property rights Merino and Menino have taken a bad law to a new extreme.  They in essence have become Thought Nazis – individuals no longer content with just violating property rights, but with also punishing any speech that runs counter to their societal ideals.  Along with the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, this mentality spells trouble for the future of our constitutionally protected liberties in America.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

 

 

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