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Religious Attacks in Political Ads: What Goes Around Comes Around

Ken Connor | Center for a Just Society | Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Religious Attacks in Political Ads: What Goes Around Comes Around

"The fate of good men who refuse to become involved in politics is to be ruled by evil men."
Edmund Burke

The quest for victory in politics and the power it brings often brings out the worst in people. Central Florida congressman Alan Grayson's recent attack on his Republican opponent Daniel Webster is a case in point. Grayson -- locked in a tight race with a popular, highly regarded veteran of the Florida Legislature -- has resorted to an "ends justifies the means" tactic that is so outrageous, it may well cost him the election.

Intoxicated with the power of his office and apparently desperate to hold on to it, Grayson released a television ad [see video below] portraying Webster as a religious fanatic and enemy of women, a homegrown "Taliban Dan." Unfortunately for Mr. Grayson, anyone who knows Webster knows that he is a devout Christian who has served the people of Florida with integrity in Tallahassee. Not surprisingly, then, Grayson's ad has backfired -- big time! One look at the original footage of Mr. Webster's allegedly Taliban-like "Submit to Me" speech reveals the scurrilous nature of Grayson's attack and reinforces the view of voters in the current election cycle that members of Congress cannot be trusted to conduct the people's business with honor and integrity.

The "Taliban Dan" ad is so outrageous that it's drawn condemnation from unlikely quarters. CNN's Anderson Cooper (no water carrier for the GOP, to be sure) chastised Grayson for his attempt to manipulate the people of Florida with deliberate misinformation, while MSNBC's Contessa Brewer speculated that the dishonesty of the ad would serve as a distraction from any legitimate women's issues at play in the election.

Does Grayson's ad represent the level of political discourse that Americans have come to expect as a nation -- a level of engagement in which hyperbole and slander reign, with little room for civilized debate on important policy issues? (Oh for the days of Lincoln-Douglass!) It's no wonder that the American people consistently give their elected representatives such low marks. Any legitimate policy disputes that Grayson may have with Webster's stance on women's issues should have been addressed candidly, honestly, and fairly, and left for the people to decide. Instead, the people got a vicious caricature and a pack of gross distortions.

The ad also raises questions about Grayson's personal and political beliefs. Does he equate conscientious Christians with Taliban radicals? Does he think Christianity views women through the same lens as Islam? Does he assert that Bible-believing Christians should be disqualified from serving in public office? The ad raises a multitude of questions, not the least of which is whether Grayson possesses even an ounce of integrity.

One thing is certain: Grayson has proven that he will say and do anything to hang on to power, and he has obviously become comfortable operating from the gutter. It's now left for the people of Florida to decide if Grayson's gutter politics are what they want of their elected public servants. If Daniel Webster's recent surge in campaign donations is any indication, it's looking like Mr. Grayson would be wise to start looking for another line of work.

Ken Connor is an attorney and co-author of Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty. He is also Chairman of the Center for a Just Society. Article used with permission.

Publication date: October 20, 2010

Video embedded by Crosswalk.com editorial staff for reader reference; was not an originally included part of Mr. Connor's article.