In last Friday’s Maroon, Barney Keller spent a good number of words whining about politicians who whine about attack ads (“Attack Ads are Important Sources of Information”). Using logic so advanced I believe only Mr. Keller was able to understand it, he equated opposition to negative ads with a lack of leadership. As an example, he used the instance of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy’s attack ads against her opponent in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Deval Patrick. (Full disclosure: I worked for Patrick this summer.)
I must confess I am baffled. I had understood “leadership” to be associated with doing what is necessary and moral even if it is unpopular or difficult. Healy’s ad is wrong on the facts and wrong on the issues. Instead of countering with a similarly false though possibly effective ad, Deval Patrick denounced the ad and reiterated his positions and credentials on public safety. (Though Mr. Keller claimed that Mr. Patrick had made “no rebuttal of the assault on his crime credentials,” the Patrick campaign released two press releases on both October 4th and 14th in addition to holding several press conferences in order to rebut Healy’s baseless attacks.) Patrick’s refusal to reduce his campaign to the vitriolic, falsity-spewing farce that Healy’s has become is a stellar example of leadership, not the lack thereof.
The crux of Mr. Keller’s argument, such as it is, is that a leader will not let their opponent define them with negative ads. He implies that Deval Patrick has let Healy define him as “soft on crime.” Considering that Patrick has been endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the International Brotherhood of Corrections’ Officers, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, 7 out of 10 sheriffs, the current and former Massachusetts Attorneys General, and several former U.S. attorneys and former district attorneys, it does not appear that Healy has been able to define him as soft on anything. Where then, Mr. Keller, is this supposed “lack of leadership”?
Mr. Keller is right to assert that sometimes it is a candidate’s duty to reveal information about his opponent which may be negative. However, he fails to make a crucial distinction. There is a difference between a negative ad and an attack ad. Healy’s ads were misleading and offensive, not informative. Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., a victims’ rights organization specializing in defending women, was quoted in the Boston Herald as saying of one of Healy’s ads, “Anyone who claims to be a victims’ advocate or a champion for victims’ rights or even has the most remote understanding of victims’ issues wouldn’t do this.” The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, a leading trade magazine for lawyers in Massachusetts, has not endorsed a candidate in the 34 years it has existed. Until now. Healy’s ads were so deceptive that the publication came out in support of Deval Patrick, characterizing one of Healy’s ads as having “a flavor of McCarthyism” and “[bordering] on the bizarre in its reasoning.”
In a brief moment of rhetorical flair, Mr. Keller writes that Americans “want the type of leader who doesn’t just say he wants to stay ‘positive.’ They want someone who inspires them to be positive.” Deval Patrick’s candidacy from the beginning has been based on a new kind of politics, a politics of hope and coming together to create positive changes in our government and our society. He is widely renowned as an inspirational speaker whose story of rising from poverty on the South Side of Chicago (he grew up at 54th Street and Wabash Avenue) to become Bill Clinton’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights has led many people who had checked out of the political process to check back in. At last, Mr. Keller has struck on a nugget of truth: Massachusetts voters do want someone who will inspire them to be positive. That is why they will elect Deval Patrick on November 7, despite Kerry Healy’s false and base attack ads.
Fourth-year in the College
This past Thursday, members of STAND met with President Zimmer to discuss the withdrawal of University financial assets from companies sponsoring the Sudanese government in their campaign of genocide in Darfur. Chief among President Zimmer’s concerns was not the financial cost of divestment (minimal) or the support for divestment by the University community (irrelevant!), but the threat to the University’s commitment to its position as a paragon of openness and free expression.
We began the meeting expecting to have to convince the administration that divestment works. We anticipated having to prove that for the University, as an institution legally prohibited by its tax-exempt status from actively lobbying for politicians, divestment is the most, if not the only, effective method for stopping the genocide. We were surprised, however, to have to convince the administrators that the cause of genocide was worthy enough to be brought before the Board of Trustees, the final arbiters of this decision. We will find out by Wednesday whether or not we will be allowed the opportunity to make our case.
Genocide includes military occupation, institutionalized racism and, mass murder, and entails far more. Genocide as defined by the U.N. Genocide Convention is a category of crime directed against individuals specifically with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. Its objectives, as articulated by human rights scholar Raphael Lemkin, are the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of the culture, language, national feelings, religion, and economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. In genocide, those values that our University seeks to foster—free expression and the unencumbered exchange and critique of ideas—are obliterated, along with the individuals who seek to uphold them. If genocide is not incompatible with our University’s paramount social values, we challenge the administration to tell us what is.
President Zimmer posed the question of whether an institution that is concerned with openness above all else was not a net good to society. We pose the opposite question: What good to society is an institution that is more concerned with openness than with genocide?
Lauren Goldenberg and Michael Pareles
Co-heads of STAND