The Dirty McCain Campaign, Violating Ethical Standards One Day at a Time

The campaign is ugly all over, with threatened assault in Florida, for instance, and Chris Shay, a McCain Campaign Co-Chair, denouncing McCain’™s dirty campaigning. Worse is the blatant appeal by McCain and Palin for the LA Times to violate journalistic ethics in an attempt at another smear of Obama. They are playing for the xenophobia vote again.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Rep. Chris Shays (R-New England) is co-Chair of John McCain’™s Presidential campaign in Connecticut. That didnt stop him yesterday from commenting on the tenor the Palin/McCain campaing has taken this year. He also predicted an Obama win for next Teusday. Here’™s his words from

New England’™s lone House Republican appears to have publicly broken with his party’™s standard-bearer, saying John McCain has not run a clean campaign and is likely to lose his bid for the presidency.

‘œI just don’™t see how [McCain] can win,’ Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays told the Yale Daily News earlier this week. ‘œHe has lost his brand as a maverick; he did not live up to his pledge to fight a clean campaign.’ Shays, who in 2006 became the only Republican congressman from New England, perennially finds himself in a heated re-election race.

When even your own supporters are claiming that you’™ve run an awful campaign, both dirty and disorganized, you’™ve got problems. Yes, McCain has problems, and some of them are in his own camp. It appears from some comments, for instance, that Sarah Palin is using the next five days as a leg up to GOP leadership. But more important is that John McCain has lost almost every connection to objective ethics and truth. For instance, he’™s spent several weeks implying and overtly stating that Barack Obama is a socialist. Last night on Larry King he’™s asked point blank if Obama is a socialist. The answer? ‘œNo.’ Yeah, John McCain has been lying for weeks.

This last bit is not sensational or a ‘œgotcha.’ It has to do with journalistic ethics. If it gets any traction on the campaign trail, then you’™ll hear a lot more in the next couple days. Both Sarah Palin and John McCain are referring to the LA Times in their speeches, claiming the Times has a video where Barack Obama attended a party also attended by a former spokeperson for the PLO. Clearly they think they can sway Jewish voters if it turns out there’™s a picture of Obama hugging Rashid Khalidid, a friend. There are three problems here. First, this is another fishing expedition by the Palin/McCain campaign, and it is designed to make people think something more nefarious went on than a friendship. Maybe Palin and McCain don’™t understand that people actually do have friendships. Yes, even Barack Obama, who they also claim has been aiming to run for President for years with a blind ambition, stopped along the way to have friendships with people the Republicans could use for smears. Ho hum.

Second, the Palin/McCain team is contending that if the LA Times refuses to uphold journalistic ethics and the law, then they are in the tank for Obama. Yes, the Palin/McCain camp is overtly asking for violations of journalistic ethics that will get the LA Times in trouble legally. Ethics, evidently, equals ‘œliberal’ to the Palin/McCain campaing. Here’™s the LATimes on the subject of journalistic ethics:

Authorities on journalism ethics generally urge news outlets to share as much original source material with their audiences as possible. Two experts said Wednesday that The Times seemed to have gained information for its readers by agreeing to keep the tape confidential, while another expert said she would have recommended the paper push hard at the time of the original reporting to allow for it to be shared with the public.

All three said that once the agreement to keep the tape confidential had been struck, the newspaper had both ethical and legal reasons for abiding by it.

‘œThe calculus a reporter is making is: ‘What is the public good of getting the information and does it outweigh the limitations that the source wants me to put on the information?’™ ‘ said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. ‘œIn this case, knowing about this event and being able to describe it to readers seems like a pretty good trade-off for not being able to release the video.’

Bob Steele, a journalism values scholar at the Poynter Institute, agreed that the deal seemed sensible, though he advises reporters to avoid such agreements if possible.

‘œBut once you make the promise to protect a source or to protect information,’ Steele said, ‘œyou do not go against that promise, barring the most exceptional of cases, and this would not seem to be such a case.’

In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1st Amendment does not protect the media from breach-of-contract claims by sources with whom it makes confidentiality agreements.

It is not unusual, of course, that a Palin/McCain campaign with so little in the way of ethics itself would try to coerce a newspaper from violating its own code of professional ethics.

Sunday, November 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

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