More than one kind of sleaze

?Set the stage. Start making noises that the opponent is a big spender or a hypocrite before dropping the big bomb. Set the bomb off early. The closer to election day a negative attack is made, the less credibility it has.? ?, Setting the new standard

Sorting through papers on my table the other day, I flipped between the mail stack of bills and magazines and my fourth-grader?s school folder of cute little drawings and math assignments.

Paper by paper, I organized and filed them into piles. School notes here, bank statement there, horse drawings here, political mailer with a picture of a politician standing in front of a brick wall with a neon ?Girls Girls Girls? sign hanging in the background?. Which pile does that one go onto?

I think my exact words were something like ?Ummmm…what?? So I flipped it over because yes, it got my attention. Turns out this particular politician had been found in a compromising position in the back room of a strip club.

There?s no denying their approach to keep you reading. Sex sells, they say, no matter what is being sold. I looked over both sides of the mailer to try to figure out who it was promoting. Eventually I found the return address of the Kansas branch of the Republican Governors Association out of Washington, D.C. No phone number or email contact. No obvious way to follow up on this earth shattering information that was intended to sway my vote away from the guy whose name they mentioned over and over and over (and over and over) on their pamphlet.

Republican, Democratic or otherwise?do smear campaigns work? Really? Do they work better than the golden rule? Or is that idea too neat and tidy? Ethics may be expected and valued in every other profession and facet of life, but do they have a place in politics?

I know for sure I am out of touch with the down and dirty details of politics. I am admittedly uninformed and don?t follow it like a tax-paying citizen should. And when I see this kind of mail or hear this kind of commercial, there is a small voice inside of me that says, ?OK, so I shouldn?t vote for this candidate who has no moral code…but I can?t vote for the one who ?approved this message,? who has no ethical code.

The Houston Chronicle newspaper website?s small business section said about campaigning, ?Whenever politicians misrepresent the facts, it?s considered negative advertising. While most consider this practice unethical and irresponsible, negative advertising can remain ethical as long as they maintain certain moral standards.?

That clears it right up.

Those ?standards? were to:

1. Respect truthfulness.

2. Respect the dignity of each human person. (I?m not clear on why they threw the word human in there, but we?ll go with that.)

3. Respect social responsibilities.

I admit I sometimes have to wing it when I get ready to vote. Since there?s no way to really know all of the (true) facts about each candidate, the standards above for the use of negative advertising have to become my own voting standards.

I have to remember to (1) respect truthfulness, (2) respect human dignity and (3) respect social responsibility.

I haven?t figured this out yet. The closer voting day gets, the more untrustworthy I get. So much for voting confidence. I may not be politically inclined, but don?t want to take my vote for granted. Do I accept the smear campaigns I happen to catch in my mailbox about ?this? sleaze-ball? Or the opposing ones that come up during TV commercial breaks telling me how much of a sleaze-ball ?that one? is?

Decisions, decisions. Problem is, there?s more than one kind of sleaze-ball.

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