I know, I can't believe it either: Karl Rove, the legendary Republican strategist whose name has become synonymous with hard-ball campaign tactics, has asserted that both presidential campaigns have wandered too far from truth.
"McCain has gone in his ads ... one step too far," Rove said on Fox News Sept. 14. "Sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent-truth test." In recent weeks the McCain campaign has accused Barack Obama of advocating sex education in kindergarten. (In reality, Obama voted for a bill that called for warning young children about sexual predators.) The McCain campaign accused Obama of sexism for using the phrase "put lipstick on a pig." (It turns out that McCain has used the phrase multiple times, including in reference to Hilary Clinton's health care plan.)
Distortions and attacks distract. We face problems in need of well-reasoned and well-negotiated solutions. Can you say, mortgage crisis? Health care costs? Banks collapsing?
As parents and grandparents, we're charged with modeling for children adult modes of communication: Speak the truth, be tactful, listen carefully, search for common ground. And then there's that old-fashioned idea — we are a town that celebrates old-fashioned values, no? — that, as a family, we're all better off when we're all better off. This idea can be extended to our nation or, at least one hopes, our town of 70,000 souls.
I wish it weren't the case, but in Alameda some topics provoke disturbingly polarized discourse. Name-calling and willful misunderstanding replace measured conversation.
Two weeks ago I wrote a column about my family's choice to give up our cars. We're seeing if we can navigate the challenge of family life this way; we're trying to lessen our negative impact on the environment. Little did I know that my description of our experiment would provoke hostility by some who, somewhat mysteriously, imagined that I was putting myself in a pro-development camp.
The host of an eponymously-named local cable access show called me a "dweeb," as in "that dweeby columnist." His guest, a twice-defeated candidate for citywide office, called the chairman of our city's transportation commission — who I cited in the article because he provided me with census data on car ownership — a "moron." And, for good measure, the show's guest also referred to Alameda's elected officials as "these idiots that are running this town." Both host and guest went on to characterize my column as advocating the "Manhattanization" of Alameda.
For the record, I do not support turning Alameda into NYC.
But there I go, denying the absurd. A distraction. Like our nation, we in Alameda face real problems and issues. What about the high cost and challenging logistics of cleaning up the naval base? The work of making it into a thriving, vital area, whether through residences or industry, open space or retail? And what about this global warming problem — which is, in fact, what my column was about: my family's response to it.
In fact, there are lots of good reasons to think a particular area of town should or should not be developed in a particular way. And there are lots of good reasons to miss an Alameda that was, or to embrace (or fear) one that might be.
Have you noticed we humans tend to panic in the face of change?
Alameda might be your hometown, but you share it with tens of thousands of others, most of whom consider it their town too. So disagree. But rely on logic.
"They don't need to attack each other in this way," said Rove of McCain and Obama. "They have legitimate points to make."
Eve Pearlman also writes the Alameda Journal Blog. Look for news, impressions and opinion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal.