Pushing mud uphill
Are the repugnant push-polling calls made in Iowa and New Hampshire a desperate attempt to smear Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a frontrunner in both those states? Not all facts are in, but the media have pieced together this: The calls were made to voters in both states asking them if they knew, among other things, that Mr. Romney is Mormon. The callers also mentioned criticisms of that faith, including charges of racism and adherents’ belief that the Book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible. The callers, employees of a Utah-based firm called Western Wats, also mentioned that some critics describe Mormonism as a cult. The callers, who apparently failed to disclose who hired them, also made favorable statements about Republican John McCain’s military service and fiscal record.
Mr. McCain, a chief rival of the Romney campaign, has denied instigating the calls and has joined Mr. Romney in filing a com- plaint with the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, which is investigating the source of the calls. The individual or group behind the calls could face a $1,000 fine and felony criminal charges under state statute, according to Jim Kennedy, a New Hampshire assistant attorney general. “We will pursue whatever means necessary to resolve this matter,” Mr. Kennedy told The Washington Times. The Federal Election Commission could also penalize the client behind the calls if it turns out that the source is a political action committee or some similar body and the calls did not contain a disclosure clause.
While many details of the push-poll episode are still emerging, it is clear the religious attacks fall well outside the realm of acceptable political communication. It is not difficult to find morally questionable episodes in almost any religion’s history. Whether it’s the Catholic Church’s pedophile scandal, the Southern Baptist Convention’s enthusiasm for slavery or the violent jihads perpetrated by Islamist zealots, religions around the globe must confront (or be confronted by) their troubles.
It’s not clear whether the intention of the calls was to generate sympathy for Mr. Romney or sling mud at him. What is clear is that at this point it’s nasty campaigning at its worst. We hope a resolution to this case is swift and just.