-By Warner Todd Huston
The campaign for the GOP nomination is really getting hot in Florida. The hard campaigning has caused a lot of bemoaning over the attacks going on between Mitt Romney, his ads and the ads sponsored by his super PAC, and Newt Gingrich’s own attacks. Everyone is concerned that this mudslinging and in fighting may be hurting the GOP. But is it?
Well, relax, everyone. There is nothing unusual going on here. What we are witnessing is really nothing different than we’ve ever seen in this country. In fact, some may recall the viciousness between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2007. But memories fade all too quickly and too many jump to this momentary feeling that things are worse now, that today’s political climate pales in comparison to vague, past golden ages that never existed.
All this fighting is a good thing. From it we get to see issues debated in immediate and passionate ways that mere, dispassionate debate will not show us. Sure it’s raucous, loud, maybe a bit unseemly, even. But compared to what our nation’s enemies want to do to us, this is weak brew and if we have candidates that can’t stand up to a few TV ads, then how badly will the wilt in the face of real challenge when in office?
As to the issues, up until this month Romney has been allowed to skate on answering to his hardheaded and unfathomable support of Romneycare. His Massachusetts healthcare policy — one he continues to support adamantly — is little different from Obamacare. After all, his healthcare plan was the model for Obamacare. Yet, the media has given him a complete pass on answering to it. But Rick Santorum and Gingrich have finally started hitting Romney on his hypocrisy of claiming that Romneycare is great but Obamacare isn’t when they are indistinguishable in the particulars.
With the attacks on Gingrich we are seeing all his warts uncovered. All his past mistakes, flip flops, and at times odd behavior are being dredged up for a whole new generation of voters that may not remember his years in the House of Representatives.
How Romney and Gingrich handle these challenges gives us a measure of them as candidates. A staid debate does not reveal temperament nearly as easily.
Further, do we want a candidate that gets nominated without ever having to answer a single question about his record and his past? We got that with Obama and he has been a disaster.
But, let’s gain a bit of perspective shall we? These sorts of attacks on politicians have been going on since day one in these United States. People like to recall how in the 1800 election surrogates for John Adams (backed by Alexander Hamilton) floated the tale that Jefferson was a Godless atheist and was prone to bedding his slave women. Jefferson’s smear machine accused Adams of being un-American and pro-royal Britain. But the mudslinging started long before the 1800 presidential contest. A whisper campaign calling Washington stupid, senile, and out of touch had started before his first term was up with whisperers hoping that Washington would go home to Mount Vernon and clear the field for other candidates.
Andrew Jackson was called an uncultured fool who supported whores, Lincoln was called a baboon, candidate Al Smith was called a Papist that would hand the country over to the Catholic Pope, Barry Goldwater was said to desire a nuclear war with the Soviets, and on and on it goes. About the only presidential contest that was free of such viciousness was the campaign of James Monroe. His era wasn’t called the “era of good feelings” for nothing.
So, quit the carping, people. It’s always been this way. Let the mud fly and let’s see how it all shakes out.