2006.10.26: October 26, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: The Capital Times: Margaret Krome writes: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cameroon: Special Reports: Cameroon RPCV and Columnist Margaret Krome: 2006.10.26: October 26, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Cameroon: Journalism: Speaking Out: The Capital Times: Margaret Krome writes: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy

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Margaret Krome writes: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy

Margaret Krome writes: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once asserted, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Lamentably, this is a year when candidates nationwide are testing that sound tenet of democratic discourse. Journalist Margaret Krome served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon.

Margaret Krome writes: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy

Margaret Krome: Smearing with mud, lies also smears democracy
By Margaret Krome, Oct. 26, 2006

"Voters should be able to choose between qualified candidates based on individual merits. At no time should voters have to make a choice based on which candidate can throw the most mud."

Thus wrote my nominee for Decent Candidate of the Year, Kevin Wiskus of Iowa, who was so offended by an Iowa Republican Party brochure mailed on behalf of his candidacy in September that he left the Republican Party in protest.

The flier accuses Iowa state Rep. Kurt Swaim, a Democrat, of accepting $963 to give a child molester whom he represented as a public defender a "sweet deal" and obtain early release. It criticizes Swaim's aggressive defense of his client, asking, "If we can't trust Swaim to keep child molesters behind bars, how can we trust him with our vote?"

Since public defenders can't choose their clients and don't decide sentencing, the smear makes no sense, and Wiskus apologized publicly to Swaim, saying, "Though I had no prior knowledge of this vicious attack on you, I ask that you please accept my most sincere and humble apology to you and Julie."

Years ago I worked in Washington, D.C., for an organization that was angry at a political appointee who we thought abused his role in overseeing a federal agency to undermine the agency's work. I was asked to review his travel expenses to see if I found any compromising expenses. Principally, I discovered that he didn't like to fly, but instead traveled by train, which seemed irrelevant. My boss, however, gleefully ignored my scruples, and a big media commotion emerged about his slightly higher travel reimbursements. This was my first exposure to public lashings for citizens who participate in public service in whatever role.

Unfortunately, misinterpretation of facts, innuendo and personal attacks based on irrelevancies have become especially awful during election seasons, and this year is worse than most.

A Republican campaign used in many districts nationally accuses Democratic candidates of voting against curbing the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games, even when Republicans themselves voted the measures down based on First Amendment rights or other flaws.

Not all offenders are Republican. A review of faulty ads by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group FactCheck shows that several Democrats around the nation, though none in Wisconsin, accuse Republican incumbents of having voted against military troops. . In many cases, these characterizations misrepresent the nature of the votes at issue, such as the fact that active duty National Guard and Reservists already get health care equal to active duty troops, so the vote cited wasn't really a vote against their health benefits.

Here in Wisconsin, J.B.Van Hollen has twisted facts in his effort to win the attorney general's office. Van Hollen touts his handling of high-profile prosecutions as U.S. attorney, including an investment fraud case and a famous mall rapist case. However, the plea agreement on the investment fraud case was actually signed two weeks before Van Hollen was sworn in as U.S. attorney, and Falk's campaign notes that "the Dane County District Attorney's Office filed six times as many charges against (the mall rapist) as the U.S. Attorney's Office including all the rape charges."

Furthermore, the case was handled not by Van Hollen, but by an assistant U.S. attorney. Such misrepresentations are disturbing since the attorney general and candidates seeking that office should be especially dedicated to scrupulous adherence to facts.

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once asserted, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Lamentably, this is a year when candidates nationwide are testing that sound tenet of democratic discourse.

Margaret Krome of Madison writes a semimonthly column for The Capital Times. E-mail: mkrome@inxpress.net

When this story was posted in October 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Capital Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Cameroon; Journalism; Speaking Out


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