"IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CHARACTER ASSASSINATION"
It was about a month ago when I found myself stuck without my cell phone, without access to my computer, and without the keys to my car.
I was stuck, forced to impatiently wait for a ride that was to take me to a political rally to which I had been invited to speak some 60 miles away.
Waiting, I found myself engaged in the same activity in which I had engaged thirty years earlier.
I watched television.
Naturally for me, I turned to the news and in between news segments, was bombarded with the seemingly endless parade of political attack commercials. Watching, I learned that Ron Desantis wanted to raise our taxes in Florida, inclusive of implementing an income tax, while Adam Putnam, in his disdain for Donald Trump, wanted to propagate red tide and green algae blooms in Florida.
I learned that Vern Buchanan was profiting from his congressional position by purchasing luxury yachts and that David Shapiro was in favor of global warming because he owned stock in the oil industry.
Most amazingly, I also learned that I wanted to implement death panels and that I hated Donald Trump.
Dismayed, I got up for a bite when I stumbled upon the day's mail. There, I learned that Republican Matt Caldwell also hated Donald Trump, and that County Commission candidate Lourdes Ramirez could speak to the dead. (Although delivered as an attack piece, I remember thinking mediumship was likely a positive quality especially considering how badly those who could not communicate with the dead had mucked our political system.)
Fast forward to Friday, August 31. That's the day I came across a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Mark Pulliman discussing the all out assault the United States Senate executed against then Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Robert Bork. It was an assault so massive, so untrue, and so unabashed in its immorality that it actually gave rise to the verb, "bork," meaning to vilify, or systematically attack a candidate or public figure, especially in the media, in order to obstruct a person's appointment into public office.
For Mr. Bork, the first volley came from Senator Ted Kennedy who, as Pullliman puts it "made one of the most disgraceful speeches ever delivered on the Senate floor," falsely accusing Bork of supporting "back-alley abortions." He also accused Judge Bork, who until that moment had been considered an impeccable candidate for the Supreme Court and a lover of the United States Constitution, of supporting segregated lunch counters, censorship, and a rogue police force.
Of course, none of Senator Kennedy's allegations were true, but they nevertheless were successful in at least temporarily destroying a just man's reputation; long enough to keep him from being able to secure his nomination.
Judge Bork had been borked. His confirmation fell short in a vote of 42-58, and the roll of the Senate in judicial confirmations was forever changed from a body that reviewed the qualifications and integrity of a presidential nominee to one that sucked those nominees into the world of cut-throat partisan politics and personal destruction.
Obviously Pulliman's article speaks to the state of affairs of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, as we have already heard the calls from Senator Chuck Schumer about a cover up and his argument that the President of the United States should have no authority to nominate a Supreme Court Justice so long as the he is under investigation for fear of the appointed Justice blocking a presidential impeachment or investigation.
Of course, Schumer's argument, as are so many others of his creations, is a work of fiction barely fit for delivery in a John Grisham novel, much less in serious political discourse. But recalling the myriad of television and print ads delivered during this primary season, I am struck by the observation that Puliman's sentiment regarding the Senate's shameful conduct in considering presidential nominees is equally applicable, if not more so, to our campaign process.
A very high ranking elected official in discussing this very issue with me a few days prior to the publication of Pulliman's article observed, "Julio, the primary is all about the character assassination," and my heart, aware of the accuracy of his observation, sank a little lower.
The fact is that those candidates who feel they are inferior to their opponents, or view their standing in the polls as being threatened, will immediately create whatever negative brand they can about their victims and deliver it with reckless zeal. Similarly, those who are well funded will deliver just as vicious and false attacks upon their opponents with the aim of helping to guarantee their victory.
Of course, we will never know how many fantastic candidates, superior to their victorious opponents have been successfully borked as a result of the appalling state of affairs we have allowed political discourse to devolve into, but a number of observations are nevertheless irrefutable. .Our nation is suffering from many ills today. Immorality abounds. Spending is out of control. And corruption infests our greatest institutions.
But this much is also true. Political campaigns, with their undue reliance on character assassinations, is helping to guarantee that the people best suited to propagate these ills are the ones who are getting elected.
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
Dr. Gonzalez is an orthopedic surgeon and lawyer serving as State Representative for South Sarasota County in Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages