All’s fair in love and politics?

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid making unsubstantiated claims that Republican nominee Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in ten years, it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths on politics.  Of course he has so far refused to name his source or at the very least explain how this person would have access to Romney’s tax status in the first place.  But thankfully nearly everyone has recognized the recklessness of the statement.

Now that election season is upon us we will be bombarded with political advertising. If we have learned anything from the past, this year will be no different in that virtually all of it will be skewed to one degree or another.

Should we accept this as normal? Most people will react by saying “well that’s politics”. But should it be?  Should politicians be permitted to make false or unsubstantiated claims about their political opposition,  or should there be some recourse? What should happen to politicians who are reckless with their accusations? What kind of penalty do you think would curb such behavior?

I, for one, do not believe the ends justify the means when it comes to politics. Some people do; that their opponents are such an awful choice that they must be prevented by any means necessary from being elected. Whether it means lying or cheating, as long as the right person wins, all is fair in love and politics.

My question is this: is all really fair? Should politicians be permitted to make unsubstantiated or false claims about their opponents, or should they be held to a standard of integrity where by false and unsubstantiated claims are met with consequences? What kind of penalty would curb such behavior?


  1. “My question is this: is all really fair? ” I think that’s the wrong question – it’s not a matter of being “fair” but truthful. I am willing to accept “attack” ads, so long as they are actually truthful. Here in Canada, our lefties had a fit when the Conservatives made some very effective negative ads against Micheal Ignatieff, then leader of the Liberal Party. The usual accusations of “American style” politics were thrown out (because anything the Conservatives do that they don’t like is nasty “American style” politics, but if they do it, it’s okay). The problem for them was that everything in those ads was true and proveable. The Liberals were pretty much destroyed in the last federal election and there’s no sign of recovery.

    As far as I’m concerned, if one side is going to make an “attack” ad and accuse their opponents of something, they had better be willing to back up their claims. If they can’t – or won’t – then their opponents should be able to take legal recourse to protect themselves from slander or libel, just as they would at any other time outside of a political campaign. “It’s just politics” is cannot be acceptable as a defence.

  2. I think they should be sued for slander.

  3. Ah, understood.

    It’s my opinion that for political ads, they need to be held to a higher standard of accuracy and truthfulness, not a lower one. If someone it going to make an accusation, they should be prepared to defend it as if in a court of law. No rumors. No innuendo. No misleading or misrepresentation to make one thing appear to be something else. At the same time, I do think hard questions need to be asked during a campaign, and there is a place to demand some information, if it is relevant – but if one candidate has to reveal certain information (say… taxs records and financial statements) then all of them do.

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