A lot has been made recently about whether "guilt by association" has a valid place in political campaigns. Raleigh attorney Pressley Millen made an impassioned plea against its use on the editorial page of the News & Observer yesterday. His conclusion:
In the end, both logic and law counsel that we judge our candidates
personally and not based solely on associations with others, whether it
be other persons, groups, ideas or even products. Obama has held
elective office since 1997 without ever uttering one word that might
cause someone to think that he holds some of the more egregious views
attributed to his former pastor. In 22 years of public life, Lt. Gov.
Perdue has never given any indication that she pines for the antebellum
South. The associations — thin as they are — don’t lead to guilt.
It’s nice that the N&O would allow a Democratic Party insider such as Mr. Millen make a passionate defense of the candidates he supports.
According to NC State Board of Elections and Federal Elections Commission reports, Mr. Millen and his family has donated over $25,000 to Democratic candidates in the past few years. He has even given money to Bev Pedue and Richard Moore — two candidates he makes sure to defend valiantly in his op-ed.
The N&O should have disclosed this. Without this disclosure the reader of the editorial is led to believe that this supposedly neutral 3rd-party is standing up and making a plea against guilt by association, when he is, in fact, guilty of associating with the people he seeks to defend.
Guilt by association is a time-tested campaign tactic. How many times have we seen Democratic candidates put any and all Republicans next to George Bush? Heck, they are even doing it to McCain right now, all the while disavowing the NCGOP ad connecting Moore and Perdue to Obama. Only now as it is hitting those on the left a little harder than usual do we hear cries of "guilt by association" being unfair. Never before have Democratic gubernatorial nominees so embraced the Party’s more liberal nominees for President. (Where was Easley when Kerry came to Chapel Hill? Where’s a picture of Bob Jordan and Dukakis?).
This year we have Moore and Perdue both running as fast as they can to throw their arms around and embrace Sen. Obama. So either they really support Obama and his policies or they are just using his race and popularity to win support for themselves. One makes them a true-believer and therefore guilty by association, the other makes them, well… the oldest profession in the book.