Opinion

‘Taliban Dan’ ad calls Grayson’s character into question

Elizabeth Letchworth Former U.S. Senate Secretary

This week, many political pundits have focused on the Central Florida congressional race between Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and his Republican challenger, Daniel Webster, because of a political ad that Grayson aired. The ad compares Webster to a Taliban member and claims that Webster will force women to submit to their husbands. For those who haven’t seen the ad, it shows Webster speaking about how women need to submit to their husbands. However, the full statement from which the quote was extracted shows Webster saying the exact opposite. He was speaking to a church retreat a few years ago and specifically asked his audience to pick Bible verses that complemented their marriages. He told the men in the group NOT to pick the Bible phrase about women submitting to their husbands.

This writer remembers the annual debate in the U.S. Senate on the campaign finance reform bill before it finally became law in the spring of 2002. Sens. McCain and Feingold were diligent in pushing the Senate leadership to tackle this issue for many years. During the on-again, off-again debate, much time was dedicated to Section 305 of the bill, known as the “stand by your ad” provision. This is the section that requires all federal candidates to include a statement that identifies the candidate and states that the candidate has approved the communication. The reason this provision was added was to keep the tone of candidate ads a bit calmer. The senators debating Section 305 back in the early 2000s, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sponsored the provision, assumed that it would be risky for candidates to make controversial claims about an opponent’s record and appear on camera sanctioning the message. They also assumed that voters would be more inclined to punish candidates that used this strategy.

That scenario could be playing out in the current race for Florida’s Eighth Congressional District. According to a new poll from the Sunshinestatenews.com dated Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010, Webster now holds a 7-point lead over Grayson. If Grayson had his way, I wonder if he would accuse the author of the nighttime prayer; “Now I lay me down to sleep,” of having some torrid extramarital affair.

I forgot to mention one key point that was made several times during the campaign finance reform debate back in the day. That point is that senators assumed that the men and women that would be running for federal office and airing campaign ads would be honorable.

Elizabeth Letchworth is the Owner-Founder of GradeGov.com, four times elected United State Senate Secretary for the Majority/Minority, U. S. Senate-retired, presently senior legislative advisor at Covington & Burling, LLC.