Archive for Tuesday, September 4, 2012

‘Gotcha’ game

Political campaigns should rise above half-truths and statements taken out of context.

September 4, 2012


Election campaigns really should be more than a game of verbal “gotcha.”

It seems that far too often these days, candidates — and often the news media — focus too much attention on a single statement by an opponent that may or may not be taken out of context or properly reflect the candidate’s true opinion or record on a given issue.

President Obama’s campaign latches onto Mitt Romney’s statement that he likes to fire people. The Romney campaign pulls out Obama’s statement about “you didn’t build that.” There was a similar example closer to home last week when Tobias Schlingensiepen, a Democrat running in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, focused on a statement Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican, made at a public meeting in southeast Kansas about “people who are happy to collect unemployment and not work.”

Granted, in this day and age, candidates have to know that any statement they make can be online and public in seconds. They have to be careful about what they say. In Jenkins’ case, she probably wishes she could rephrase the way she responded to a comment at a public meeting in Columbus. In the situations cited with Romney and Obama, they probably simply wish their statements could be considered in the broader context in which they were made.

Creating jobs, supporting business and addressing problems with “people working the system” on unemployment are all legitimate campaign issues that deserve the attention of both candidates and voters. Rather than pouncing on an opponent’s partial sound bite or misstatement, however, why not look at his or her record or a broader spectrum of comments on a given topic?

Playing “gotcha” with candidate statements can be part of a broader tactic of candidates twisting information or promoting outright falsehoods about their opponents. This tactic may work, but it is a disservice to voters.

The current polarization of the American electorate makes voters an easy target for those who want to stir up emotions rather than deal with hard facts and issues. Both voters and candidates need to fight this trend as they head toward the important November elections.


Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, indeed. It's very difficult to sort out the facts. It troubles me that candidates nationally and locally are stirring emotions. Busy voters do not have time to sort through this. The voters are vulnerable to the sound bites they get.

Too much strategy. Not enought information.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

I disagree with you. When more people know the judges on American Idol than on the Supreme Court, that's not because it's difficult to sort through the facts. That's a choice. When more people play video games than read a newspaper, that's a choice. When more people watch You Tube than legitimate news sources readily available on the internet, that's a choice. The voters are making a choice every day to not sort through the facts and many are then taking the next step in that process by choosing not to vote.

It's really not that difficult. We are in the process of getting the government we deserve.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

That too. Apathy and laziness will contribute to our downfall. Just kickin back, watching American Idol, with political sound bites during the breaks. Scary thought.

beatrice 5 years, 7 months ago

jhf, great response. It really isn't hard to recognize the fact from the fiction. When you hear a sound bite, it isn't hard at all to find the context. Nor does it take long. You don't even need to hear an entire speech to find the sentence or two that preceeded or followed the sound bite.

Also, (and I know this one is partisan but it is the strongest example I can think of from recent events), but when a speaker at a party's convention holds a conversation with an empty chair ... you have to figure that the words spoken represent political fiction.

uncleandyt 5 years, 7 months ago

Here's an idea. Maybe we should ask the News Business if they would be interested in joining our fight of this trend. Hmmm? Is that crazy? or what?

Carol Bowen 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, we've been applying pressure locally. Why not? How would we start?

WilburM 5 years, 7 months ago

Jenkins' comment was reported accurately and not taken out of context (as were both the Obama and Romney quotes cited). Moreover, her comment is backed up by legions of votes in the House that support an unkind, suspicious approach to anyone who has been thrown out of work in the worst recession since the Great Depression. No, Tobias got it right in emphasizing this point of contrast. If you can't draw contrasts, how can you have an actual campaign?

Darrell Lea 5 years, 7 months ago

Your piece today expresses a worthy sentiment. It should be required reading for your staff, including the writer of your Saturday Column.

"The current polarization of the American electorate makes voters an easy target for those who want to stir up emotions rather than deal with hard facts and issues. Both voters and candidates need to fight this trend as they head toward the important November elections."

The same can be said for newspapers and other media outlets. You need to become fact checkers and journalists, not propagandists and agitators. Good luck with that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

You mean, "Which Saturday column WOULDN'T that apply to?"

Phil Minkin 5 years, 7 months ago

“people who are happy to collect unemployment and not work.” is the kind of "dog whistle" statements that Repubs use. It conjures up an image for them of a lazy Blacks or Hispanics living on the dole. Reagan used the "welfare queen" meme to do the same thing. The infamous Willie Horton ad is another example of using subtle racist imagery to give the parts if the base some racist red meat.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

Boy, I'm sure happy only one side of the political spectrum uses that sort of misleading imagery.

Trumbull 5 years, 7 months ago

Is ok to voice objections to this political hogwash anonymously? Or do us citizens need to truly step into the swamp and bring our names into it. This topic was brought up on one of the weekend blogs.

WilburM 5 years, 7 months ago

MOre responsible, to be sure. Maybe a little less entertaining. But I think real names with comments for everyone is a good idea.

headdoctor 5 years, 7 months ago

This editorial is hilarious. The last several of Dolph's political editorials were exactly what this article is about. Wonder if Dolph approved of this message? ROFLMAO

Armstrong 5 years, 7 months ago

Does this mean a candidate would have to run on his record? Barry you're in deep trouble

beatrice 5 years, 7 months ago

Did you know that Mitt Romney didn't once mention his creation of "Romneycare" in his acceptance speech? Is that the kind of running on his record you mean? He never once mentioned the hundreds of millions of government funds given to him to make the Winter Olympics a success. Why not? Isn't that his record?

Our President, Barack Obama, kept this nation from falling into another depression. He supported the American auto industry when others would have let it fail, saw to it that millions will have access to health care, ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ended the war in Iraq and is moving toward the end of the war in Afghanistan, helped see the downfall of Gahdafi without the loss of a single American life, and ordered the attack that brought the death of Osama bin Laden. That is just some of the record he will be running on.

Mitt Romney apparently only ran Staples, never saw the closure of companies that he made millions off of, and was apparently never a governor.

I don't believe our President is in as much trouble as you fantasize. But then, you have never been able to deal with the real Obama. You can only handle your projections on an empty chair.

Armstrong 5 years, 7 months ago

Bea, if that's the world you choose to live in go right ahead

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