• What Do Barack Obama and Thomas Jefferson Have in Common? Um, Besides Being Infidels…?

    Negative campaign tactics: You can't live with 'em, you're not allowed to sniper shoot Karl Rove with a scope rifle. So, what's to be done?

    Apparently nothing. And, apparently, there never was

    Today's handwringers, who are disgusted by the tone of modern political campaigns, might be reassured (or slightly depressed) to learn that we've always been this way. Almost from the birth of the nation, presidential campaigns have been filled with vitriol and deception.

    "Everybody always assumes there was a golden age of presidential campaigning that occurred 20 years ago," says Gil Troy, an American history scholar at McGill University. "Almost from the start, American politics had its two sides — it had its Sunday morning high church sermon side, and it had its Saturday night rough-and-tumble ugly side."

    Yeah, but what about our wise, tax-evading, slave-owning Founding Fathers? Surely they were men of principle, far above such despicable smear tactics…

    Thomas Jefferson was attacked by ministers who accused him of being an "infidel" and an "unbeliever." A Federalist cartoon depicted him as a drunken anarchist, and the president of Yale warned that if Jefferson came to power, "we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution."

    Wow! Barack Obama's seeming more and more presidential every day.

    A Connecticut newspaper warned that [Jefferson's] election would mean "murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced" — though the paper, which is now the Hartford Courant, did apologize some years later.

    In 1993. "You turned out to be a good influence on America," the editors wrote.

    So, maybe even Barack Obama will be vindicated some time around the year 2201.

    That is, assuming he doesn't blow up the country with a dirty bomb and sell our wives to the Taliban between now and then.

    Tags: Barack Obama, Founding Fathers, John McCain, Thomas Jefferson


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