Monday, February 11, 2008

Despite Tightness in Democratic Race, Clinton Still holds on to Family Values

Whenever you are running for a political office it’s not uncommon to face attacks and criticisms, particularly ones that are very personal and strike against your character or actions. These attacks, which in any other scenario would probably be viewed as vile and downright wrong, are in fact simply viewed as common practice and possibly acceptable in a political arena. Perhaps it’s one of those unwritten rules about politics. That the ethics and morality in a profession are somehow trivialized when it’s two politicians going against each other. But when these attacks come from so-called neutral sources such as a news outlet, then, somehow the issue of ethics and morality are now relevant and someone must step in to draw that so-called “line in the sand.”

This is exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton last week as an MSNBC reporter criticized the presidential candidate, claiming that by using her daughter to contact superdelegates to build up support for the Senator, that she was “pimping out” her daughter. Despite all the backlash and personal attacks that have been going on between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, this 3+ minute clip (which can be viewed on youTube)

has erupted into something that has definitely wound up hurting this reporter’s image and may very well end up hurting MSNBC. In response to this comment, the Clinton campaign has pretty much vilified the network, claiming that the news station has had a history of making coarse remarks against the Senator and her campaign and that Clinton may even boycott the MSNBC Democratic debate scheduled for February 26th.

As a result of the MSNBC comment as well as the reaction by the Clinton campaign, the question then comes down to whether or not Senator Clinton overreacted and took this comment out of context. Just the term, “pimping out” derives more connotations than its actual meaning and for me, I see images of the popular MTV show Pimp My Ride, screenshots of the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto and scenes from the movie Hustle & Flow. Is this the kind of company I would want to see my daughter in? Probably not. However, I do have to believe that any normal person who views this clip would think that the reporter was simply referring to the Clinton’s using their daughter and star power to stir up support and votes. I cannot see how anyone could think that, literally, Senator Clinton was “pimping out” her daughter in a sexual way, especially since the background clips show Chelsea fully clothed and without any intimation of sex or prostitution.

Now that we have addressed what exactly was said, we have to think about the context in which it was used. Would this comment be as offensive if the reporter stated that the Clinton campaign was not “pimping out” but “using” their daughter? Obviously not. However, this comment was aired on a cable newstation. Moreover, this bit aired on a talk show where controversy is always built into the schedule. There was a guest from either “side” as to prevent a one-sided news coverage and in all seriousness, networks love creating controversy. They love it because they know that the public loves it. And if the public loves it that means ratings go up, as well as advertisements. The comment that aired on MSNBC, although perhaps tasteless, was never meant to offend anyone. And the threat that Clinton made towards MSNBC that she may back out of the debate, may highlight that she still does value her family. However, given that she is running for President and that Barack Obama is hot on her heels, perhaps her reaction was meant to spark some energy into her dwindling campaign.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

McCain’s Balancing Act: Conservatives and Ethics

No matter what John McCain promises from now until the Republican National Convention in September, he will never fully convince the firm, hard-line conservatives of his party that he is one of them. Nevertheless in order to win in November, McCain needs to convince the talk-radio legions of the GOP to at least vote and mobilize in similar fashion to when they helped elect George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. In order to accomplish this arduous task, McCain needs to swallow his considerable pride and make some compromises with the conservatives. While some may see this as unethical appeasement, political observers must recognize that the party nomination process is very much about give and take. The GOP is giving a lifetime maverick the chance to have the full weight of a powerful political machine behind him as he seeks the highest office in the land, while McCain is giving the party a legitimate chance to win an election in which all the odds are stacked against them. In order for McCain to undergo this issue haggling and maintain his political soul, he needs to decide which issues he can modify and which ones he cannot.

One way to touch the heart of any true conservative is judges. Some of the main concerns of conservatives- guns, abortion, marriage, and affirmative action- are decided in the courts, and McCain can promise conservatives he will nominate similar judges to those of President Bush without compromising his own values (He has been a consistent pro-life and 2nd Amendment voter in the Senate). Perhaps McCain could also tone down his global warming rhetoric, particularly his advocacy of a cap and trade program on carbon emissions, which makes even moderate Republicans want to pull their hair out. However there are some positions, particularly campaign finance reform and amnesty, where McCain would look silly and dishonest if he backed off. On immigration, McCain can focus on fixing the Mexican border first, but to drop amnesty (a very unpopular idea amongst the GOP faithful) would seem absurd given his co-authoring of McCain-Kennedy. Backtracking on McCain-Feingold, the comprehensive campaign finance reform bill that is the bane of existence of conservative fundraisers and first amendment supporters, would also be unethical.

Despite their history, conservatives will realize that John McCain has a lot of positions-see Iraq, the war on terror, spending- that match their core values. As long as he makes an attempt to reach out to them, they should come out in droves to support him in order to prevent a Clinton or Obama presidency. However, it should be up to McCain’s own core of ethics-not his desire for electoral victory-to determine how far he’ll go to appease them.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Let's Blog!!!

Hello Everyone,

My name is Brett and I’m a student at Syracuse University. This semester, my public relations ethics class has been given the very exciting task of starting a blog. Working in groups, each team will be responsible for posting commentary revolving around current event issues. Ideally, we would like to select topics that pose ethical and/or moral challenges. My group has been assigned the very exciting topic of government. With the highly competitive presidential race going on it shouldn’t be that difficult to find something to discuss. However, although the presidential race is a large topic, we cannot forget about the other issues our government is involved in such as President Bush’s recent tax rebate proposal, the war in Iraq, education, immigration and healthcare. As our semester rolls on I look forward to presenting very interesting material that hopefully does not cause controversy, but sparks discussion.