Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Different Kind of Colussus

The words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that grace the Statue of Liberty symbolize America’s guiding light hope, inspiration and freedom.
These words come from New Colussus, the sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, an American poet born in New York City (1849-1887), written for an auction to raise money for the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty now presides.
Lazarus’s work was cast in bronze, mounted on the inside wall of the pedestal, is now known as the Statue of Liberty poem, and those famous last lines have become part of American history.
And so it is that the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses illegally crossing our nation’s southern border day after day, yearning to “breathe free” and be embraced by America, has reached a crisis of epic proportion.
These are not our children yet they have become our problem.  And these are not all children: 90% of these illegal immigrant “children” are teenagers. Thousands of men and women, many pregnant, are also illegally entering the US every day.
It’s no coincidence that research has revealed that the murder rate in Central American nations is declining rapidly. But I digress…
A recent A CNN/ORC International poll revealed that a majority of Americans surveyed support making it easier for the United States to return the “migrant youth.”
Yet despite nearly 70% of Americans wanting the “immigrant children” deported, President Obama is working furiously on unilateral action on immigration.  
“Unilateral” is defined as “decided by one party; decided or acted on by only one involved party or nation irrespective of what the others do,” and “accounting for only one side.”
Another example of we, the people, being ruled rather than represented.
Congress is chewing on Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to “deal with the crisis of unaccompanied youths”; Senate Dems are proceeding with their $2.5 billion bill; and House Republicans are working on a scaled-back deal that would come in well under a billion dollars—only $695 million for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends September 30th, costing the taxpayers more than $11,000 per day.
Then what? No doubt more taxpayer dollars will be funneled to what most Americans don’t want.
So while Obama is working on an amnesty act that Republicans are warning could provoke a constitutional crisis, the flood of illegal immigrants continues across the border.
We are witnessing an immigration crisis and a crisis in leadership and it's not likely that either crisis will end any time soon.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Funding the Trough

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has proposed selling four city-owned parking garages in order to fund the construction of new recreation centers in the city. Like most proposals coming out of City Hall, this is a decent idea on the front end, and stupid one on the back end.

As you know, we at Red Maryland have long been fans of privatizing government-owned services, since private operators can run the same facilities with lowers costs and overhead, and can competitively price the same services against the existing private-sector market. The same can be said of these parking garages.

The story notes the return that the Mayor expects the city can get on divesting itself from these parking garages, and there are immediate benefits....even if City Council President Jack Young doesn't get it:

Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he has concerns about the administration's proposal to raise up to $60 million for recreation centers by selling four of the city's 17 parking garages. Young noted the four garages are money-makers — bringing in $400,000 annually — and questioned whether it's wise to forgo future revenue for a quick cash infusion. 
"I would like the city not to sell them, but lease them, and not just give away the cash cow," Young said. "I want to make sure that we're getting our best bang for our buck."
If you do some quick math, you will note that if the Administration can sell the garages for top dollar i.e. $60 million, that it would take 150 years for the city to make the same amount of money (not counting for inflation) in parking revenue as it would for the immediate divestiture of these assets. And that's not even counting future increases in the costs of maintenance, salary increases, new physical plant, etc.

Selling these garages is an immediate win for the city, and frankly the Administration should consider selling all 17 of the city-owned garages, particularly the aggregate of them would be similar to the estimated price of these four garages. If you estimate similar costs, the city could raise over $250 million from the sale of all garages.

Where the proposal goes south, however, is the fact that the Administration wants to immediately turn around and spend the money that they get from the sale of the garages on recreation centers. Of course, the city already has thirty-eight city funded recreation centers and an additional seven city-owned, but privately operated, rec centers. Realistically, the city should probably not be in the city-operated recreation center business in the first place, with a more reasonable solution to convert the remaining 38 city-operated centers into privately operated ones. But that of course has not stopped Baltimore City Council members from stepping up to the trough:

Meanwhile, City Council members were already angling to get the best seat at the trough to build state-of-the-art facilities in their districts.

Councilman Brandon Scott, who represents Northeast Baltimore, said he will not vote for legislation enabling the garages to be sold unless he receives assurances that future projects will include neighborhoods with the most children. Two such neighborhoods — Cedonia-Frankford and Belair-Edison — are in Scott's district. 
"It's a great win for young people," Scott said of the plan to sell the garages. "But the only way that I will support this is if it's done the right way. We should not be doing things haphazardly. We should be building and renovating centers where the kids are." 
Councilman Nick Mosby is lobbying for the city to build a "premier" recreation center in West Baltimore, which he represents. He said he wants the city to consider crime and poverty when selecting where to place new project. 
"It's important to look at: Where are the challenges in our community? Where is the blight?" Mosby said. "It's not like we have these opportunities often."

It's of course unsurprising that any elected Democrat in Baltimore City would angle for the spotlight, particularly Councilmen like Mosby (remember his attempt to boycott Florida?) or Scott (the brains behind  the new useless city curfew law). But while they are attempting to eat at the trough and bring home the bacon to their districts, have any of the City Council members stopped and asked if this is truly the best use of the city's windfall.

An influx of $60 million is roughly $120 for every man, woman, and child in the city of Baltimore. Imagine if that $60 million was, instead of being used as a handout to sure up support for their re-election campaigns, was instead used to fund a small property-tax cut for city residents and businesses? What if that money was used to pay down debt service, to reduce future property tax increases?

No, that would be nutty wouldn't it. Why would the City Council take positive steps to improve Baltimore when instead they could try to make sure to bring shiny new stuff to their Districts to buttress their re-election campaigns. Councilmen like Brandon Scott and Nick Mosby are show horses, not workhorses in trying to improve Baltimore City. They would rather grab at the fleeting resources that are made available to them instead of taking proven and positive steps to try and improve Baltimore's economic climate.

The garage sale plan is a good idea that is desperately in need of competent execution on the back end. And it seems that city leaders would rather have rec centers than jobs and a growing tax base. And hat's why Baltimore has the problems that it does.

More below the fold.

Backing the Wrong Horse

One of the things that happens with a change of administrations in the executive branch of any government is that key personnel who are up for reappointment are not reappointed. That's the case in Annapolis, where Mayor Mike Pantelides promised that he would not reappoint Carl Snowden to the Annapolis Housing Authority. And he didn't. Which is when the Housing Authority decided that they would go into business for themsleves:

The Annapolis housing authority created a new position for Carl O. Snowden, whom the city's mayor decided not to reappoint to the authority's board. 
Snowden's five-year term as chairman of the board of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis is due to expire at the end of July. Mayor Mike Pantelides declined to reappoint Snowden. 
The housing authority board voted on Monday night to create a new position called "chairman emeritus" and appointed Snowden to the position. 

In a complete and total insult to Mayor Pantelides, the Housing Authority created a brand new position specifically for Carl Snowden in order to allow him to continue to have influence on Housing Authority matters, albeit no vote on them. It is the exact kind of influence that the Mayor wished to eliminate by replacing Snowden on the council in the first place.

Snowden, never known for having any class or decency, then decided to lambaste that Mayor in racially tinged tones at a City Council meeting last night:
Snowden announced his new position later Monday at the Annapolis City Council meeting, after lambasting the mayor. 
Snowden claimed Pantelides reneged on a promise to not criticize one another publicly. The mayor's announcement earlier this month that he would not reappoint Snowden came while Snowden was out of town. 
"Mr. Mayor, you cannot select our leaders," Snowden said. "You cannot tell us who we should be supporting and who speaks for us. When you attempt to do that, you display an insensitivity to the African-American community." Snowden is black; Pantelides is white.

Snowden has long-claimed to speak for the African-American community in both Annapolis and in Anne Arundel County, though nobody has elected to him to any office quite a long time, and the extent of his political influence seems to be based on whatever Democratic elected officials he has attached himself to over the years. Most of Snowden's more visible work has been that of a staffer for former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens and as the "Director of Civil Rights" in the office of Attorney General Doug Gansler.

The other thing that Snowden is relatively well known for is for his myriad of legal troubles through the years. Snowden has been convicted of driving under the influence at least three times, and was most recently busted for pot possession, which landed him in jail for 10 days due to violating his 2010 conviction, and to his firing from Gansler's office. Oddly, none of that shows up in his official biography, but alas.

Snowden's replacement was not confirmed by the City Council last night, so Chairman Emeritus Snowden will be Chairman Emeritus and Chairman for a few more months. But Snowden is not really the soruce of the outrage here; Snowden's reputation proceeds him and everybody knew it. And everybody knew that Mayor Pantelides, in his quest to change the way that Annapolis is run, was not going to tolerate Snowden's presence on the Housing Authority any longer than he had to.

However, it is the Housing Authority itself which deserves scrutiny. So what it is? Here's how they describe themselves:
The Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis (HACA) was founded in 1937 to provide affordable housing in the City of Annapolis for families who lacked the means to purchase or rent housing at market prices. HACA's mission is to achieve excellence by providing housing, and self-sufficiency opportunities, and by promoting customer satisfaction to enhance the quality of life for low, very-low, and moderate-income residents. 
HACA is an independent agency chartered by the state of Maryland, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the direction of a Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Annapolis.

So it is in fact the public housing agency in the city; they provide housing to 2500 residents. That, incidentally, is about 6.5 percent of the entire population of the city. And the waiting list to get people into public housing is pretty long, up to three years depending on the number of the size and income level of the family.

We could have an entire philosophical discussion about the utility of an agency providing free or subsidized housing to anybody. It's certainly not an idea that I support, but let's leave that for another day. The fact that remains is that the Housing Commission is not performing up to the standards that one would expect an agency to perform at if the the goal of the agency was to "provide affordable housing in the City of Annapolis for families who lacked the means to purchase or rent housing at market prices." Let's face it, the minimum wait for a public housing unit in the City of Annapolis according to Agency date is at best three months and in most cases is a year or more. Why is the Housing Authority unable to provide the necessary accommodations to those folks whom they are supposed to be serving in a timely manner? Why is it impossible for the Housing Authority to get an individual or a family into public housing for at least one full year?

And that's the question and the stands on which the Housing Authority should be taking action. But instead of focusing on those issues, the Authority decided to stand tall in support of a political hack with extensive record of abusing alcohol and using illegal drugs. Instead of working with the City Council or the Mayor in order to try to fulfill their mission and reduce the backlog of those in need of public housing, the Housing Authority decided to give Mayor Pantelides the middle finger instead. The Housing Authority decided to serve a political agenda instead of their customers by backing Carl Snowden and picking a fight with the Mayor.

What the Housing Authority hacks fail to realize, however, is that all their political stunt does is strengthen the Mayor's hand. When Mike Pantelides was elected Mayor last fall, his campaign slogan was to "Sweep Annapolis Clean." And he's in the process of doing that. Just look at the budget, where he worked successfully with Democratic Alderman to produce a budget that is fiscally responsible and fits his campaign promises. Pantelides is showing that somebody can both win and govern in Democratic strongholds as a fiscally responsible conservative Republican. When the Housing Authority acts in a belligerent manner as they have done in this Snowden case, they are doing little more than proving the Mayor right.

The focus of the Snowden reappointment drama should not be on Carl Snowden, it should be on the remaining Housing Authority Commissioners who would rather try to score political points instead of adequately doing the job to which they were appointed.

More below the fold.

The Vichy Wings Rides Again

Once again, it looks like the problem of the Vichy Republicans has reared its head up in Frederick County, in two different major races:

By all appearances, goodwill was in the air at a Saturday unity rally that included Jan Gardner, David Gray and Mark Sweadner. 
More than 200 people gathered in front of Winchester Hall to thank Republicans Gray and Sweadner for their campaigns for county executive, Gardner said. The rally also gave Gray and Sweadner, who were defeated in the GOP primary, a chance to underscore their support for Gardner, the Democratic candidate for county executive....  
...A defeated Republican county executive candidate has announced his support for Dan Rupli, a Democratic contender for the Maryland Senate. 
Mark Sweadner, who lost the GOP nomination to Young, said he has long admired Rupli. 
"Dan is a person that represents all classes of citizens, and I hope you will consider voting for him to become our State Senator in District 4," Sweadner said in a statement. 
Rupli, who is going up against Hough, said he appreciates the endorsement, especially since his campaign focuses on bringing together people of different political viewpoints. 
Rupli also noted that he has gotten an endorsement from Gray, another Republican executive candidate knocked out in the primary.
This of course is not the first time that a defeated Republican candidate has switched sides up in Frederick County. In 2010 Liberal Republican Charles Jenkins took his ball and endorsed the Democrat after his primary election defeat to Michael Hough, and Jenkins was at the vanguard of party switching endorsements for 2014 when he declared Jan Gardner as shoo-in to be County Executive last December.

Strangely, this seems to be behavior that we only see in Frederick County. Sure, you have occasional individuals from time-to-time break party ranks, but only in Frederick County do we see wide-spread dissension in the ranks between winning candidates and losing candidates so frequently. This is a problem that goes far beyond competitive primary elections. While the primary race between the Red Maryland backed winner Michael Hough and Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley was hostile and a lot of feathers were ruffled, few activists involved in the race have openly switched sides.

One of the questions that was asked frequently during the gubernatorial debate was about whether or not the three defeated candidates would endorse the winner. In the end, Messrs. Craig, George, and Lollar all came to the Unity Rally to pledge their support to Larry Hogan. There, it was clear that the issues that divided the candidates were at the margins, with most supporting a mainstream conservative philosophy. The problem with this kind of nonsense out in Frederick is that it asks the question not about party unity, but about ideological consistency. In Frederick County, there is a clear choice and a clear ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats. If Mark Sweadner and David Gray were so comfortable crossing party lines to endorse mainstream, out of touch Democrats like Gardner and Rupli, why were they seeking office as Republicans in the first place?

I mean seriously, two guys who ran as Republicans endorse the guy who said this:
The rights of middle-class families are evaporating in the face of exploding wealth and income inequity between the upper 1 percent and everyone else and fast-growing corporate political power. The release of vast amounts of unaccounted money by corporations and billionaires into our elections is threatening democracy itself by turning leadership selection into a bidding process. I completely reject the idea that “corporations are people” or that “money is speech.” 
This is not the kind of idea that actual Republicans buy into....

The problems in the Republican Party are not new. Hopefully, the newly elected officials and elected Central Committee leadership will be able to straighten all of this out. But the only thing that we know to be true with these endorsements is that David Gray and Mark Sweadner have joined Charles Jenkins as defeated candidates whose petulant, post-primary endorsements have ended their careers in Republican politics.

More below the fold.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Conservative Refuge Radio 7-28-2014

Find Additional Politics Conservative Podcasts with redmaryland on BlogTalkRadio

The Red Maryland Network presents another installment of Conservative Refuge Radio.

On tonight's show: 

More below the fold.

Another Word (or Several) About Michael Peroutka

Six months ago we warned you about the theocratic, reactionary views of Institute on the Constitution founder Michael Anthony Peroutka and his spokesman John Lofton.

At the time he was considering and Maryland Republican officials were talking to Peroutka about running for Attorney General.  Now Peroutka is the Republican nominee for the Anne Arundel County Council in District 5, and the Anthony Brown campaign, for lack of any real arguments, is trying to make Peroutka an issue in the gubernatorial race.  Larry Hogan did the right thing and quickly disavowed Peroutka.  The Brown campaign deceitfully used the word "disassociate," which connotes a previous association where none existed.

Unfortunately, some passive aggressive pundits, with a bowl of sour grapes from the primary still sitting on their table, are buying the bag of magic beans hawked by the IOTC and embracing Peroutka to take a swipe at Hogan. They are either ignorant of the full measure of Peroutka's views or deliberately omitting it.

Peroutka states he holds a traditional "American View" of government "that there is a God, the God of the Bible, and that our Rights come from Him, and that the purpose of civil government is to secure our rights." Fine nothing wrong with that. It's somewhat straight out of the Declaration of Independence where Jefferson laid out the natural law theory of rights where we are all "endowed by our Creator" with inalienable rights life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and that governments are instituted among men to secure those rights.

HOWEVER, an analysis of Peroutka's "American View" cannot end there, because there is much more to the story. 

From our original warning:

Here is video of Peroutka speaking at the League of the South’s annual convention, thanking its president Michael Hill and board members for his appointment/election and pledging the resources of the IOTC and the Peroutka family to the League of the South.

On its FAQ page The League of the South says in part that its mission is “to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means,” through legal secession.   The League also seeks to protect the “Anglo-Celtic core population and culture of the South”

Should that not be enough to convince you of what the League of the South stands for, here is League president Michael Hill in his own words:

The survival, well being, and independence of the Southern people. And by “the Southern people,” we mean White Southerners who are not afraid to stand for the people of their race and region. In other words, we understand what it is to be an historic “nation”–a specific people with a unique culture living on a particular piece of land. And, God willing, we shall one day have a name and place among the nations of the earth.”

Here’s Peroutka speaking about his IOTC course to the League of the South:

Here's the kicker
We have a basic Constitution course, now again I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all, that this regime is beyond reform. I think that’s an obvious fact and I agree with him. However, I do agree that when you secede, or however the destruction and the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical worldview and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do. Whether we’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people, or else liberty won’t survive the secession either. You see what I’m saying? So this view, I saying that because I don’t want the League of the South, for one minute to think that I am about reforming the current regime, and that studying the Constitution is about reforming the regime. I like many of you, and like Patrick Henry, probably have come to the conclusion that we smelled a rat, smelled a rat from the beginning. However, we believe that it is essential to take a biblical view of law and government and then make those applications so we publish actually three courses of instruction. 

Sounds like Peroutka is four square behind secession. Smelled a rat? Like Patrick Henry? Is Peroutka interested in upholding our current constitutional order, or does he as the League of the South does, want a new order based on his biblical beliefs?
Of course, that's just Peroutka's view on civil government.

Peroutka and his spokesman John Lofton's theological mentor is the late Rousas Rushdoony, is the founder of Christian Reconstructionism.  Lofton’s Facebook profile picture is a photo of Rushdoony, and his writings and views are plastered all over the IOTC website. 

The IOTC website directs readers to this 1988 interview Rushdoony did with Bill Moyers.  


Moyers: You’ve written that the Bible calls for the death penalty, and I’m just running down a variety of things as you can see. You’ve written that the Bible calls for the death penalty of some 15 crimes: rape, sodomy, adultery.
Rushdoony: Adultery because in the Bible the basic institution is the family. There’s no law of treason against the state. The Bible doesn’t even imagine anything remotely like that. But the basic institution is the family. And so, several of the death penalties are associated with the family and its life.
Moyers: So adultery was considered a theft of the family.
Rushdoony: It was, yes, it was treason to the family.
Moyers: Homosexuality.
Rushdoony: Yes, it was treason to the family.
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: What?
Moyers: Worthy of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: Yes.
Moyers: Deserving of the death sentence?
Rushdoony: Yes, that’s what Paul says.

… Moyers: But you would re-instate the death penalty for some of these or all of these Biblical crimes?
Rushdoony: I wouldn’t—
Moyers: But the reconstructive society–
Rushdoony: I’m saying that this is what God requires. I’m not saying that everything in the Bible, I like. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. But I’m simply saying, this is what God requires. This is what God says is justice. Therefore, I don’t feel I have a choice.
Moyers: And the agents of God would carry out the laws.
Rushdoony: The civil government would, on these things.
Moyers: So you would have a civil government, based upon–
Rushdoony: Oh yes. I’m not an anarchist. I’m close to being a libertarian. But–
Moyers: But the civil law would be based on the biblical law. And so you’d have a civil government carrying out a religious mandate.
Rushdoony: Oh yes.

The father of Lofton and Peroutka’s core philosophy believes in a civil government who’s first duty is to carry out a religious mandate to do what God requires as written in the Old Testament, including executions for adulterers and homosexuals.   

I contend that Rushdoony's views of civil government are just as statist as any progressive. Lofton claims that his biblical or "American View" of government would mean a smaller government. Maybe, but that doesn't mean its scope would be smaller or that it would infringe upon the God-given rights of those citizens whom it agents deem have violated biblical law. Who wants to live under a government that has the authority to execute adulterers?

Simply put a biblical view of civil government does not immunize its self-appointed mandarins from the statist temptation. 

Much like the progressives who envision a technocratic utopia run by enlightened government bureaucrats, Peroutka and Lofton, as their theological mentor Rushdoony did, envision a society with a civil government executing Biblical mandates—as interpreted and determined by men like them.

More below the fold.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The O'Malley Song

Another one from Ron Tankersley.  If you loved The Hangover, you'll love this parody.

More below the fold.

Guns Guns Guns

Our friend Ron Tankersley is at it again. His take on Beretta fleeing Maryland for Tennessee.

More below the fold.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The SUN: Ethical Negative Campaigning -- The Sine Qua Non of Winning Elections

The positives of negative ads [Commentary]

When it comes to political campaigns, playing nice is a good way to lose

By Richard E. Vatz and Lee S. Weinberg
11:45 AM EDT, July 24, 2014
There may be no more enigmatic concept in politics than negative campaigning. Virtually no one publicly supports it, almost every non-shoe-in political principal uses it, and almost no two people mean the same thing when they refer to it.

Periodic hostile and ugly political campaigning goes back centuries in America. In the beginning of the 19th century, there was hatchet man James Thomson Callender's attacks on Thomas Jefferson, claiming the new president fathered children with slaves. Decades later, there were Republican taunts of "Ma, Ma, where's my pa?" toward Democrat Grover Cleveland, implying he had fathered a child out of wedlock.

And so it ebbed and flowed until the 1980s when there was a journalistic consensus that campaigning had reached a new low of irrelevance, nastiness and fraud, according to journalists ranging from conservative George F. Will to liberal Tom Wicker.

In 2012 T. W. Farnam of The Washington Post argued that negative campaign advertising had become the norm, with roughly half being not just negative but accompanied by vitriol.

In Maryland and Washington D.C. there has been an ever-increasing general abhorrence of negative campaigning by many politicians and journalists. Del. Heather Mizeur, for example, won plaudits from almost all pundits (not here) for her proclaimed aversion to negative political persuasion in her attempt to become Democratic nominee for governor:

"What I hear in living rooms and community centers across the state are people ready for politicians to remain positive," she told a Baltimore crowd.

In The Washington Post of July 13, 2014, political veteran reporter Dan Balz wrote a piece praising Colorado's John Hickenlooper as "the man who hates negative ads."

The hostility toward negative ads and negative campaigning is generally unjustified both practically and as a principle of right vs. wrong in campaigning, however. Avoiding negative campaigning eliminates criticism of your opponent, and if he/she is the frontrunner, it may guarantee victory. Ms. Mizeur finished third of three in the governor's race. Moreover, her condemnation of negativity in the gubernatorial campaigns hurt mostly Attorney General Doug Gansler, rather than frontrunner Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. The electoral outcome was this: Together, Del. Mizeur and Mr. Gansler did not equal Mr. Brown's vote. Mr. Brown, the incumbent governor's choice, suffered no negative challenge from Ms. Mizeur, who also dismissed the challenge from Mr. Gansler to his and her detriment. Would those who oppose negative campaigning say that Sen. Brian E. Frosh should not have argued that Del. Jon Cardin's missing 75 percent of his committee votes disqualified him from being the Democratic nominee for Attorney General? That fact, first revealed by The Baltimore Sun's reporting, indisputably lost that primary race for Mr. Cardin.

Negative campaigning can be very effective, especially when your opponent is unknown or the public opinion regarding him or her is unstable. It wins and loses primary and general elections. How is a politically uneducated electorate to know of a primary candidate's weaknesses or shortcomings if there is no negative campaigning? Especially now that media is increasingly stretched thin and unable to cover many races. Opposing negativity in political campaigns is like opposing someone's criticizing your relative: it should depend on what they are criticizing and how they criticize it. All negative campaigning is not the same. Several years ago we wrote of the "FIT" test for evaluating the acceptability of negativity in political races. Unacceptable negative political persuasion is that which is 1. false; 2. irrelevant; or 3. tasteless. The rest is fair game.

Acceptable examples include President Barack Obama's alleged foreign policy inconsistencies or Ronald Reagan's age in his second presidential campaign. Unacceptable negative attacks include the 2012 claim that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney backed a bill outlawing abortion even in the case of incest or rape (false); where specifically President Obama was during the Benghazi Attack (irrelevant) or sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton, such as Mike Barnicle's once-famous 2008 claim that as far as likability, when confronting opponents, Mrs. Clinton looks "like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (tasteless).

Criticism is essential in campaigns to argue why one's election is not just a good thing, but also necessary to reverse or change the direction of the city, state or country.
Those who oppose all negativism in political campaigning either yearn for insipidity or advantage, but not the rightfully vaunted marketplace of ideas to determine the best candidates.

Richard E. Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of "The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion" (Kendall Hunt, 2013); his email is Lee S. Weinberg is an associate professor within the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. His email is

To respond to this commentary, send an email to Please include your name and contact information.

More below the fold.