Campaign Mudslinging Nothing New
Character assassination in presidential campaigns dates back to America’s first elections. Arguably the weapons employed today are more subtle.
Insight magazine claimed that Barack Obama attended a Muslim madrassa when as a child he lived in Jakarta. But, as the Washington Post’s Fact Checker explains, a “madrassa” is simply a school in Arabic. It isn’t necessarily Muslim. And the word carries none of the connotations “of bearded fanatics spewing anti-Western hatred” it evokes in the West.
The same Fact Checker article examines the convenient error made by Mike Huckabee when he said that Mormons believe Satan and Christ are brothers.
Yet, in the words of magazine U.S. News and World Report, “The character issue is nothing new.”
During Thomas Jefferson’s bid for the presidency in 1800, he was called “a cheat, a fraud, a coward and a robber” by John Adams’ supporters.
Conversely, according to Campaigns & Elections magazine, “Adams was called everything from a fool to a criminal. Claims were made that he wanted to marry off his son to the daughter of George III, creating an American dynasty under British rule.”
Jefferson and Grover Cleveland had to deal with allegations that they had fathered children out of wedlock.
In the 1828 presidential race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, both candidates flung accusations of extramarital infidelity at each other. Adams’ backers made much of the fact that Jackson’s wife was not formally divorced from her former husband, who had abandoned her.