Election 2008

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Candidates Chewed Up in Campaign Rumor Mill

December 31, 2007 12:02 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey praises Barack Obama’s rumored “Muslim heritage,” and then apologizes for his mistake, the latest in a number of election-related retractions. Are such “mistakes” typical of the subtle double-dealing that characterizes contemporary politics?

30-Second Summary

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On Dec. 16, Kerrey officially endorsed Hillary Clinton as presidential nominee. Afterward, he told The Washington Post that he also liked Obama, partly because his “father was a Muslim and … his paternal grandmother is a Muslim.”

These false claims had been circulating as part of an Internet campaign that claimed Obama concealed his Muslim background.

Kerrey quickly apologized to Obama for any unintended harm he had caused by his comments, but blogger Joe Gandelman at the The Moderate Voice doubts Kerrey’s sincerity.

Although analysts can only speculate about whether Kerrey’s statements were, as ABC News’ Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper ponders, an “attempt to raise an issue while pretending not to raise it,” this is not the first time such questions have emerged on the campaign trail.

In a December interview with New York Times Magazine writer Zev Chafets, Mike Huckabee asked whether Mormons believe Jesus and the Devil are brothers.

The question drew criticism from rival Mitt Romney, and Huckabee later apologized for the comment. However, Wall Street Journal writer Peggy Noonan thinks Huckabee is disingenuous.

Noonan writes that his apology “allowed him to elaborate on his graciousness and keep the story alive. He should have looked abashed. Instead he betrayed the purring pleasure of ‘a Christian with four aces,’ in Mark Twain’s words.”

Although mudslinging is as old as the election process itself, today’s political environment is a much more subtle and nuanced affair. One that makes Noonan “miss the old days of Gore Vidal’s ‘The Best Man,’ in which a candidate started a whispering campaign that his opponent’s wife was a thespian.”

Headline Link: Kerrey apologizes to Obama

Background: Kerrey’s, Huckabee’s and the Clinton campaign’s contentious comments

‘Bob Kerrey Goes for Clinton’
‘Huck Camp Backtracks on Mormon Question’
‘Shaheen Steps Down From Clinton Campaign’

Opinion & Analysis: Parsing apologies

Reactions to Kerrey’s comments and apology

Historical Context: Mudslinging from 1796 to today

Related Topics: The Washington Post takes heat for Obama rumor piece

Reference: Checking the facts

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