Carter addresses negative focus of Campaign ‘88

By David Kirkpatrick and Sean Noble

ATLANTA—Former President Jimmy Carter, addressing more than 1,400 college journalists and newspaper advisers last Thursday, called the 1988 presidential campaign devoid of “moral and ethical commitments” and a “maximum desire to destroy (candidates’) reputations.”

At the annual convention of the Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Advisers, Carter said, “Of all the political campaigns I have ever observed, this one is of the lowest standards … This campaign seems based upon character assassination.”

Carter emphasized that both Vice President George Bush and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis have been using negative, personally directed television advertising in attempts to discredit one another.

“The public is highly impressed by television advertising, ” Carter said. “They form attitudes from the advertising.”

Because of commercials by the Bush campaign camp, Carter said he feels ratings of Dukakis’ negative image have gone up. “People are being made to believe that Dukakis is not patriotic because he is against required pledge (of Allegiance) in the classroom,” Carter said.

He continued by saying these attacks have been effective for the candidates to gain percentage points in opinion polls, but they also are contributing to the decay of the public’s interest in voting. Because of this, he predicted a low turnout in the Nov. 8 election.

Bush’s constant use of the “liberal” label for Dukakis is a “distortion of the meaning of the word,” Carter said. “The media in 1976 (when Carter was running for president) never knew whether to label me as liberal or conservative, because my campaign had elements of both.” He said he took a liberal stand on such issues as the environment, but was conservative in other areas, such as federal spending.

Carter also said he believes the media’s critical attitude concerning the military record of Bush’s running mate, Dan Quayle, has swayed the public to sympathy and support for the Indiana senator.

Avoiding the issues has been a common problem with the campaigns thus far, and Carter said the candidates need to answer questions truthfully and accurately. “My advice to Mr. Bush and Mr. Dukakis is not to be afraid of telling the truth,” he said.

Carter said he and former President Gerald Ford will present to the winning presidential candidate an “‘American Agenda’ of issues that they cannot ignore.” This cooperative effort, which Carter said is unprecedented in American politics, will emphasize such topics as the high federal deficit.

Another problem facing the next American commander-in-chief is the continuation of a successful arms control treaty with the Soviet Union.

Carter said he is impressed with the attempts of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to curtail the proliferation of nuclear warheads. However, a major stumbling block in negotiations is the Reagan administration’s pursual of the research and possible employment of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars.”

Carter is in favor of research, but said he thinks deployment of the “blanket protection” system would greatly endanger hopes for nuclear reductions.

“Ronald Reagan surprised everyone by stating he would pursue a blanket of protection,” Carter added. “But the system will not work—it’s impossible. It costs too much money and it is threatening to too many people.”

Carter said the next president will have to address the problem of arms negotiation and choose whether to pursue the research for “Star Wars” or dump the program all together. “Research has been supported for years. My administration supported it. But, deployment has to be avoided.”

Another topic Carter spoke about was the media’s treatment of Reagan.

“The media in the last eight years protected Ronald Reagan … I don’t think the next president will have the teflon surrounding that Ronald Reagan had,” Carter said.