Push­ing mud up­hill

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

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.

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