It’s time again for that friendly reminder. We’re going into the final month of campaigning and there will continue to be a barrage of politically charged ads that should remind everyone not to believe everything they see. It’s already started.
In the interest of fairness, let’s single out two recent campaign whoppers that should be a reminder on how far candidates will go to target their opponents in the Machiavellian world of Florida politics.
Take U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson, the Democratic version of a Rush Limbaugh. This flamethrower compared his Republican opponent, former House Speaker Daniel Webster, to the Taliban. He even called him “Taliban Dan” in an ad that Grayson goes on to defend after numerous publications pointed out its absurdity.
The ad’s most egregious leap of truth comes when it repeatedly shows Webster apparently quoting Bible verse saying that wives must submit to their husbands. Turns out the actual video from which that sound bite was pulled shows Webster saying the opposite. What’s up with that?
The campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott offers another example. In a recent ad, Scott pretty much accuses Democrat Alex Sink with the crash of the Florida Retirement System, which like other investment pools posted billions in paper losses when the stock and credit markets went belly up beginning in late 2007.
Scott accuses Sink of sitting idle as the state’s pension fund lost $24 billion. Sink, a former bank executive, acknowledged investments in the $116 billion fund dwindled beginning in 2007 as the recession hardened.
But Sink points out the ad failed to mention that Florida fared far better than most states and continues to have one of the top funds in the country, posting an 8.4 percent gain for the year ending Aug. 31.
Last week, Sink’s attempt to rebut campaign allegations that she fiddled while Florida’s investment portfolio burned was bolstered by an unlikely ally: Florida Attorney General and former Scott foe Bill McCollum.
Scott’s former Republican rival, (who has yet to endorse Scott) appeared to go out of his way last week to provide cover for Sink and the State Board of Administration’s investment oversight during the tumultuous years following the 2007 market crash. The pension paid its obligations and even the most disastrous investments pool continues to return money to local investors.
Two examples, one lesson. Campaigns are paid to win and too often will bend (or disregard) the truth to do it. There is a solution, however, and it’s really, really easy.
In this Internet age, anyone with a computer and a search engine can verify or debunk a campaign ad with a couple mouse clicks. Have a question about a particular ad? Look it up. A search for “Grayson Taliban Webster” produced 347,000 hits on Google in 0.24 seconds. Another search: “Sink Scott pension ad accurate” spit out 1.1 million hits in 0.27 seconds.
It used to be voters could only rely on a handful of sources to make up their minds. Not anymore.
E-mail Michael Peltier at firstname.lastname@example.org.