Turn on any TV or radio political talk show and there are always plenty of pundits available to criticize politicians and candidates for the most obscure things. Shows will scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for something to criticize about a candidate. They are put in catch-22s; criticized for looking too dumpy on the one hand, or too polished on the other hand. While it is true that there are voters who are more likely to vote for a candidate based on their looks, it cannot be said that good looks will hurt them. Yet candidates like Romney are frequently attacked for looking too perfect.
There is a reason for this hypercriticalness. Voters are swayed by emotion, so personal attacks are effective. Pundits and political opponents know if they can distract voters into thinking negatively about a candidate for any reason, no matter how silly or inconsequential, that candidate's effectiveness will be diminished. If there is little to criticize about a candidate who is running a tightly controlled campaign, critics will rely heavily on these flimsy attacks. Ironically, this means the most ethical candidates will receive the most baseless criticisms.
It used to be a candidate could run for office and get away with behavior that probably did cross the line. John F. Kennedy had marital affairs but the media looked the other way. Now, it is impossible to run for office – even fairly low-level office - and serve as an elected without the media following you everywhere and attacking you for something as little as having a bad hair day.
Occasionally the hypercriticism backfires. The left went after Mitt Romney for putting his Irish Setter Seamus in a dog kennel with a windshield on top of his car when he drove across the country years ago on a family trip. It was not illegal and it is commonly known that Irish Setters love sticking their heads out the windows of cars when riding in cars. Romney supporters fired back pointing out that Obama had done much worse, eating dogs when he was growing up in Indonesia. Not wanting to admit that eating dogs was wrong, his supporters suddenly dropped most of their criticism of Romney regarding his dog.
The net effect of this hypercriticism is demoralizing to those seeking public office. It is deterring good people from running for office. It is destroying the reputations of people with high ethical characters who dare to put themselves out there. After a few years undergoing constant attacks, most people in public office end up with tarnished reputations and may lose reelection or even face recalls. How many elections are being decided based on hypercriticism instead of legitimate political issues? Hypercriticism is a time waster and regular Americans should avoid these red herrings and keep the country focused on holding politicians accountable for the things that matter.
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