The Company the Candidates Keep

If you can judge someone by the company the keep, then none of the candidates are qualified to be president. Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama all have had to chastise and distance themselves from friends and supporters whose statements have gone over the line. Senator Clinton accepted the resignation of fundraiser former Representative Geraldine Ferraro from her financial team. Senator Obama accepted the resignation of adviser Samantha Power. And Senator McCain not long ago had to slap down talk show host Bill Cunningham.

Then there’s the supporters they need to apologize for, but don’t, or can’t, fire. Senator Clinton has her husband, Bill Clinton. Senator Obama has his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. And Senator McCain sought, and still accepts, the support of anti-Catholic televangelist John Hagee.

Then there’s Senator Clinton’s Whitewater friends, Senator Obama’s friend Antoin “Tony” Rezko, and John McCain membership in the Keating Five club.

If any of the candidates were to say what some of these individuals have said, they’d have to resign from their own campaigns. Instead, we seem to have established a new tradition in campaigns: the apology/accepting of resignation ritual. Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for a long time. I’m sure George Washington had to apologize for someone. Probably either Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson.

Perhaps it seems worse now because the Internet spreads stupid remarks worldwide. And it makes sure no idiotic comment goes unnoticed. Representative Ferraro’s comments were made to the Daily Breeze,a small paper in a small city next to Los Angeles. Ms. Power’s comments were made to a Scottish newspaper. And Mr. Cunningham’s diatribe was before a campaign appearance in Cincinnati that was remarkable for nothing other than Mr. Cunningham’s diatribe.

With the next primary weeks away, the press have to report on something. So I’m anticipating a new stream of apologies and resignations. I don’t, however, believe any of these will impact the outcome of the election. First, because all the candidates have friends who do them more harm than good. Second, because voters are smart enough to separate the candidate from the rhetoric of non-candidates.

The fact is, politicians keep company with too many people to judge them by the crowd. Instead, we need to focus on what the candidates themselves say and do. And that should keep us all busy enough.

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