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Robocall attack on Aleshire was dirty politics

November 24, 2010

As high crimes and misdemeanors go, the celebrated robocall heard 'round the world — or at least around Washington County — is small potatoes.And that might be part of the problem.At worst, legally speaking, it appears that someone might have faked the authorization line in a telephone blast attacking Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, a Democrat, of three trumped-up charges a day before the general election earlier this month.It is telling that effectively lying about (or at best, seriously distorting) the record of a decent officeholder is considered to be less serious than the technical aspect of who paid the bill.There is today no longer any need to put the word "dirty" before the word "politics." The latter implies the former. And these gutter tactics are considered to be just part of the game, a matter of routine in hardball politics in which, like love and war, all is fair.It might be fair, at least according to our poor, modern-day understanding of the word, but it isn't right.It also is quite telling that no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack calls. If it wasn't at least morally wrong, wouldn't it stand to reason that the involved parties would have no reason to deny responsibility?At least three Republicans who will be holding public office in the coming term have admitted to some knowledge about the calls or discussions that might be tied to them, although they, too, have denied any meaningful involvement.We take them at their word. But at some point, shouldn't someone with the knowledge of these 11th-hour smears have stepped up and said, "This is wrong"? And since they apparently know who dunnit, isn't it a matter of justice to tell us who the offending parties were, without being forced into it by a state prosecutor? That would be the right thing to do.We understand that this just isn't done in today's politics, which should stand as a serious condemnation of the status quo.The people with knowledge of these calls, as representatives of their party, decided not to interfere. And they still are deciding not to interfere. This is troublesome. How are we to expect better judgment when they are called on to represent the people of Washington County?They might believe it to be honorable not to sell out the guilty parties, but in so doing, they are instead selling out every voter in this county — voters who have the right to fair and honest information about the candidates on the ballot.Perhaps people who are not conscientious in an election can throw an internal switch and become paragons of virtue when they take the oath of office. But we are aware of the axiom about changing spots.And keep in mind, these are the people who have at least owned up to some aspect of the situation. It is quite conceivable that there are others out there who have not been truthful to any degree about their knowledge of the calls.Bad behavior always has been a part of national and statewide elections. Slowly, this has trickled down to the community level, where now we employ mean-spirited, high-tech tactics for control of a sleepy, rural county with fewer than 150,000 residents.We call on the state prosecutor's office to shake this tree to see what falls out. Some might complain that such an investigation would smack of partisan politics. Indeed. Which, unfortunately, is what got us here in the first place.As high crimes and misdemeanors go, the celebrated robocall heard 'round the world — or at least around Washington County — is small potatoes.And that might be part of the problem.At worst, legally speaking, it appears that someone might have faked the authorization line in a telephone blast attacking Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, a Democrat, of three trumped-up charges a day before the general election earlier this month.It is telling that effectively lying about (or at best, seriously distorting) the record of a decent officeholder is considered to be less serious than the technical aspect of who paid the bill.There is today no longer any need to put the word "dirty" before the word "politics." The latter implies the former. And these gutter tactics are considered to be just part of the game, a matter of routine in hardball politics in which, like love and war, all is fair.It might be fair, at least according to our poor, modern-day understanding of the word, but it isn't right.It also is quite telling that no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack calls. If it wasn't at least morally wrong, wouldn't it stand to reason that the involved parties would have no reason to deny responsibility?At least three Republicans who will be holding public office in the coming term have admitted to some knowledge about the calls or discussions that might be tied to them, although they, too, have denied any meaningful involvement.We take them at their word. But at some point, shouldn't someone with the knowledge of these 11th-hour smears have stepped up and said, "This is wrong"? And since they apparently know who dunnit, isn't it a matter of justice to tell us who the offending parties were, without being forced into it by a state prosecutor? That would be the right thing to do.We understand that this just isn't done in today's politics, which should stand as a serious condemnation of the status quo.The people with knowledge of these calls, as representatives of their party, decided not to interfere. And they still are deciding not to interfere. This is troublesome. How are we to expect better judgment when they are called on to represent the people of Washington County?They might believe it to be honorable not to sell out the guilty parties, but in so doing, they are instead selling out every voter in this county — voters who have the right to fair and honest information about the candidates on the ballot.Perhaps people who are not conscientious in an election can throw an internal switch and become paragons of virtue when they take the oath of office. But we are aware of the axiom about changing spots.And keep in mind, these are the people who have at least owned up to some aspect of the situation. It is quite conceivable that there are others out there who have not been truthful to any degree about their knowledge of the calls.Bad behavior always has been a part of national and statewide elections. Slowly, this has trickled down to the community level, where now we employ mean-spirited, high-tech tactics for control of a sleepy, rural county with fewer than 150,000 residents.We call on the state prosecutor's office to shake this tree to see what falls out. Some might complain that such an investigation would smack of partisan politics. Indeed. Which, unfortunately, is what got us here in the first place.

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