What others say: Obscenity on the campaign trail

  • Wednesday, September 17, 2014 8:30pm
  • Opinion

As part of a court case in 1964, U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart was asked to determine whether a film was pornographic or not. “I know it when I see it,” Stewart wrote in part, thus enshrining a phrase in America’s lexicon.

Over Labor Day weekend, Sen. Mark Begich unveiled a new campaign ad for television. In it, a narrator identified as an Anchorage police detective stands in front of an Anchorage apartment building and describes the murder of two seniors and the sexual assault of their granddaughter.

The crimes were allegedly committed by a man who received a shorter sentence than he should have for a previous offense committed when Begich’s opponent, Dan Sullivan, was attorney general.

Had that man received a proper sentence, the ad concludes, those two seniors would still be alive.

The problem is the ad isn’t true. Sullivan wasn’t attorney general when the mistake was made, and Begich’s stumble means the mud he meant to sling is now trickling down the front of his shirt.

We know politics is a messy business. We know candidates will dig up dirt on each other. But, as justice Stewart said, we know an obscenity when we see it.

Distorting the truth is obscene. Using a family’s suffering for political gain is even worse.

At the request of the victims’ family, Begich’s political campaign pulled the offensive ad. Similarly, Sullivan’s campaign pulled a response ad.

In the next month, we expect to see Sullivan try to tie Begich closely to President Obama. We expect to see Begich try to tie Sullivan to unpopular decisions he made while attorney general.

We don’t expect to see much discussion of the issues facing the next U.S. Congress.

That, unfortunately, is the biggest obscenity of them all.

— Juneau Empire,

Sept. 11

More in Opinion

Capitol
Opinion: Humanism and the billionaire class

Compromise is the right thing to do and they should do it.

tt
Opinion: The challenged truths of 3 elected representatives

“Politicians lying is nothing new.”

This photo shows the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The wrong way to define demand

And as glaciers go, the Mendenhall is only a minor attraction.

Zachary Hamilton (Courtesy photo)
Borough mayoral candidate: ‘The best is yet to come’

Zachary Hamilton is running for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor in the special election

Love, INC in Soldotna, Alaska, provides homelessness prevention and housing services to people on the Kenai Peninsula. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: COVID relief funds help homeless children in Alaska

We need to sustain this kind of investment.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska must act now to capitalize on carbon markets

Alaska has vast forests and coastlines that can provide natural carbon management

1
Opinion: MLK Day clinics offered in the ‘spirit of service and advocacy for equality and social justice’

Attorneys across the state will be spending their holiday as “A Day On, Not a Day Off”

The M/V Tustumena comes into Homer after spending the day in Seldovia in 2010. (Homer News File)
Opinion: New federal funding could aid Alaska Marine Highway System

The evidence is clear that the AMHS is in grave danger of failing and moving into Alaska’s history books

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’ve seen the union difference

As a community we can show solidarity…

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Sullivan’s irrelevance in defense of democracy

Two years ago this week, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol…

People vote in polling booths at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: What’s on your 2023 schedule so far?

There is a Kenai Peninsula Borough Special Mayoral Election coming up in February

Soldotna City Council member Dave Carey testifies in support of the Kenai Peninsula Reentry Coalition during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Vote Carey for borough mayor

I know the responsibilities and obligations of being borough mayor