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Elephants sketch pig, draw criticism for Obama fliers

If you put lipstick on a pig, it’ll still be a pig, but if you put a pig on a person, it just offends people.
That’s the argument critics at Suffolk University made after its College Republicans group posted two fliers around campus showing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s face with a pig’s nose and lipstick on him.
The fliers were a reference to a comment Obama made about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, in which he said no amount of lipstick could cover up Palin’s record. Palin joked about wearing lipstick in her speech at the Republican National Convention last month.
Students and administrators at Suffolk called the image ‘racist’ and in ‘incredibly poor taste,’ according to an Oct. 1 article published in The Suffolk Journal, the school’s student newspaper.
Far from smearing the candidate, Suffolk College Republicans wanted to attract new members with an attention-grabbing flier, Suffolk Republicans President Jim Wilson said. Instead, the fliers incited a debate about how far political ads should go.
‘I figured it would be distasteful on a political level,’ Wilson said. ‘But we wanted to stick with this issue, be able to pull our base out and expose the double standard between attacking conservatives and attacking liberals.’
Much of the criticism the ad received raised allegations of racism, Wilson said, an accusation he strongly denied.
‘We consider our people colorblind,’ he said. ‘If you’re going to single out just one single man because he’s black, then that’s racism right there. If it had been [Democratic vice presidential candidate] Joe Biden, we would’ve done it to him. The candidate just happened to be black so people viewed it as racist.’
A larger issue is the place for negative ad campaigns in politics. Suffolk’s situation is reflective of the broader issue of negative campaigning and its place in politics.
Just as the world of college politics, both candidates have used character attacks against each other. Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Obama have each run political advertisements that attack their opponents’ image by discussing issues unrelated to their policies.
For example, McCain’s ‘Disrespectful’ ad suggests Obama is a sexist, and Obama’s ‘Seven’ ad points out that McCain owns seven homes.
‘I believe all is fair in politics,’ Wilson said. ‘There are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed, such as attacking someone’s family, but if someone makes a statement, then it’s completely fair.’
BU students said they disagree with Wilson’s feelings on negative ad campaigns.
‘Smear tactics are just wrong,’ Boston University College Republicans member Brett Champlin said. ‘I think you should attack a candidate based on issues and not have to resort to the offensive when dealing with images or slogans.’
Champlin, a College of General Studies sophomore, said the intended effect of the negative campaigns to ‘drum up support’ has had the opposite effect on him.’
‘I am a registered Republican, but I don’t know who I’m voting for,’ he said. ‘I don’t approve of smear ads and resorting to smear ads doesn’t make me support John McCain and Sarah Palin.’
School of Law first year student Joel Crespo said there are two sides to negative campaign ads.
‘I understand negative campaigning as long as there’s truth to it,’ he said. ‘But it makes a lot of people believe things that aren’t really true on both sides.’
Negative ad campaigning is a vicious cycle in which one party instigates, and it becomes necessary for the other party to respond, Crespo, who described himself as ‘pro-Obama,’ said.
For better or for worse, the smear campaigning by Republicans, who Crespo said he thinks started the negativity, opened the floodgates of criticism for both sides.
‘I can’t blame the Republicans for running smear campaigns,’ College of Arts and Science senior Elizabeth Moser said. ‘I’m not that happy about it since they tend to take the low road, but it gives the Democrats a chance to fight back and use facts to support their claims instead of smearing people’s images.’

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