To the editor:
The world’s first political consultants were ancient Greeks known as Sophists who taught debating skills and boasted that they could make the weaker argument sound stronger. Sophistry, which the dictionary defines as “subtly deceptive reasoning or argument,” is a sad staple of modern politics as well.
But even the Sophists would be ashamed of much of what goes on now. Both parties have been guilty, but I have seen nothing so vile as the torrent of Republican smears against former State Sen. John Snow, D-Murphy, who is running to reclaim the seat he narrowly lost two years ago. Now they’re cranking up the garbage factory against Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill.
These Republican flyers (rhymes with liars) should go straight from the mailbox to the trash can. None of them offers any enlightening explanation of such hyperbole as the charge that Snow “racked up record deficits just like Obama.” A fine print footnote on that one referred to four appropriations bills — each one a tremendously complicated issue — as if Snow had voted for them all. In fact, he voted against one of them — as Snow’s opponent, Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, acknowledged after I called his attention to it. Two subsequent mailings repeated the falsehood. Another flyer, misrepresenting Snow’s remarks on the Planned Parenthood funding dispute, prompted the Macon County News to document how the Republicans had taken a quote out of context from one of its articles.
One of challenger Michele Presnell’s mailings against Rapp bears two of the most execrable lies I’ve seen in one paragraph. It accuses Rapp of opposing traditional marriage and says that “extreme left-wing special interest groups” are “bankrolling his campaign.” She pretends to document the first lie with a footnote to a Sept. 12, 2011, Mountain Xpress article that in fact says nothing about any organizations. There’s no documentation — since none exists — for outside money funding his campaign. (However, voters scrutinizing Rapp’s reports for themselves will find two contributions from me. Speaking of accuracy, one of Presnell’s own flyers misspells her name as Presenell.)
More facts: Ray Rapp voted for the North Carolina law that restricts marriage to a union between a man and a woman. That is still his firm position. He opposed Amendment 1 because it was unnecessary and created a lawyer’s relief act of potential litigation.
Equality NC, which opposed the law, has endorsed other candidates but not Rapp, Snow or former Sen. Joe Sam Queen, who is running for the House.
Conveniently for Presnell, the Mountain Xpress article that supposedly supports her lies is not available on the Internet, but the newspaper kindly e-mailed me a copy. In the article, Rapp explained why he opposed Amendment 1 when it cropped up in the legislature:
“It is an unsubtle effort on the part (of) the GOP to get out the vote in the next election, but the sad truth is that it unleashes another cultural war in the state that is bad for business and disruptive to our communities,” said Rapp in response to an Xpress inquiry about the changing amendment identify (sic). (Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt did not respond to the inquiry.) “This is a sad state of affairs when we have flood victims in Eastern North Carolina, high unemployment and our education system sinking under the weight of budget slashes ... and the issue that we are called to Raleigh to debate is the ban on gay marriage,” Rapp said.
Although the Republicans’ gutter propaganda sheds no light on any genuine issue, it is useful in one way. It tells all that the voters should need to know about the character and fitness for office of those who depend on such tactics.
Martin A. Dyckman