Campaign 2008: Kinder and Gentler?

Welcome, Republicans, to 2008’s kinder and gentler presidential campaign, where new ground rules are being drawn up to assure Americans that their warm and sensitive political candidates won’t have their feelings bruised by mean and nasty negative charges. It’s a campaign where vigorous debate is welcomed, as long as it doesn’t imply any shortcomings on the other side.

It’s a campaign in which a speech to the Israeli Knesset about the dangers of appeasement elicits the editorial headline, “The President Goes Negative” from The New York Times and cries of outrage from Democrats everywhere. Thanks goodness the Times’ phrase, “President Bush’s penchant for slash-and-burn politics” wasn’t negative; imagine how miffed Republicans would have been.

It’s a campaign in which any questions about a man’s politics or policies might be construed as containing overtones of race or gender. You see, when Republicans ask whether a candidate’s stance on a particular issue might be harmful to the country, there’s often a racist or sexist implication. Luckily for Democrats, there’s nothing negative about calling someone a racist or a sexist.

It’s a campaign marked by a new paradigm that goes like this: Candidate R questions the wisdom of Candidate D’s fiscal policy, claiming it will damage the economic health of the country. Candidate D rolls his eyes and decries the negative campaign of Candidate R, claiming that Americans are tired of that kind of “politics of hate and fear.” The answer, of course, is “hope and change” which can come about only by tossing out these hateful fear mongers.

It’s a campaign in which it’s okay to accuse one side of championing a “naïve foreign policy”, as long as the side making the accusation is the one that can’t be accused of hiding racial or gender meanings in that criticism. You say there are no such implications? Hah! Just what you’d expect a misogynistic racist to say.

It’s a campaign in which any question is off-limits merely by being dismissed as off-limits and any issue is irrelevant if it’s said to be so.

The hypocritical, one-sided nature of this New Campaign was neatly, hilariously and unintentionally summed up by two back-to-back sentences in that Times editorial: “Those failed policies are one reason we yearn for the coming change of administration and for the next president to reject Mr. Bush’s bullheadedness. We also yearn for a more civilized and respectful political dialogue.” Apparently, the staff cutbacks at the Gray Lady included the Department of Irony.

So, Republicans, enjoy the coming campaign. You might still win, but it’ll have to be with both hands tied behind your back.