April 25th, 2008
02:01 PM ET

Stop complaining, start explaining

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/14/art.faye.wattleton.jpg caption="Faye Wattleton, President, Center for the Advancement of Women"]

Faye Wattleton
President, Center for the Advancement of Women

Running for president of the United States isn’t the same as running for Sunday School principal. As the stakes are the highest for the most powerful position on the planet, the contest will only grow hotter in intensity. This is, after all, the run for the presidency, the closest thing we have to royalty. The presidential candidates are crying foul with every attack ad that’s launched on them. Complaining about one another’s ads is a waste of valuable air time in an electorate with a short attention span and awaiting clarity on vital issues.

Frankly, the tone at this point has been relatively civilized. Willie Horton and Swift boat ads, which were patent distortions of the candidates’ actions, have not yet appeared on the campaigns. Many fear the current attacks will weaken the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the general election. They may be right, not because of the ads, but because of the vagueness of the candidate’s positions.

The exhilarating phase of the campaign is coming to an end, and the scrutiny is tightening on the candidate’s character and ability to lead a nation with many challenges. If the candidates and their surrogates are genuinely concerned about how attack ads might be distracting voters, they should stop complaining and use them as a backdrop to give Americans more substantial issues to think about. Rather than disparaging, dismissing or brushing off their attacker, the candidates should explain their positions on specific issues. Failure to do so is an injustice of the democratic process.

Filed under: Faye Wattleton • Raw Politics
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Lita Gomez

    I am very proud to be a woman. When I arrived in the US in '66, I was a young 25 yr old physician , in a room filled with men and only 2 women doctors. I had to prove to those men and I did.
    Obama made the biggest mistake of his life running against a woman, esp Hillary. He stole Hillary's thunder at the moment but I believe he is not going to succeed. He should have waited for his turn but his blind ambition led him on.
    It is like being a freshman in high school and right away running for student body president. He was elected as senator and less than a year in office accomplishing very little, he started to run for the highest office in the land. He should not be rewarded for this.

    April 29, 2008 at 8:39 am |
  2. kevin lynch

    First Dean should resign for being a complete failure as chairman. Second lets be honest all these situations that question Obamas relations with Rev wright, and other issues against Obama come from republicans.
    Rev Wright is a RACIST,period, no sugar coating it, he is equivalent to the KKK leaders. Obama had a CLOSE relationship with this Racist , separatist and anti american preacher. Obama states "the typical white person believes"? Michelle Obama states many anti american statements all of which come from sermons of rev wrights!!!
    Obama is a FAKE who rides the "CHANGE" message!

    April 28, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  3. Lydia Marie

    Mrs. or Miss Wattleton:

    As much as I dislike you as a person and dislike you as an Afro-American woman (I'm an Afro-American woman) because of your past affiliations, I have to say that I agree with you on this blog. I agree that the candidates-all of them-should not disparage their attackers, but instead should take those opportunities to explain their positions of each issue they're being criticized about.

    April 28, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  4. Debbie, NJ

    Where have you been. Obama would love to debate the issues but that hasn't happened. Hillary knows he won't attack her back so she uses the only weapon she has left (since she's behind in the popular, most states, delegates counts), that is her ability to talk a good game.
    She's even behind in likabilty and trustworthiness. So she's a good debater. So is a crooked lawyer, con artist, addict, liar, you name it and none of it is good or good for this country.

    April 28, 2008 at 2:21 pm |
  5. Cindy

    Desperation is a very serious situation to be. Hillary knows her only way of becoming the D nominee is to be negative. The campaign became silly and dirty when it was obvious that OB was winning. Hillary & Bill adopted the kitchen sink strategy, damning the consequences on the party. New voters, old and young will ask them about this very selffish strategy in 2012.

    April 28, 2008 at 12:11 am |
  6. Tony


    Only one way that Democrats can lose the general election is if they delude themselves into thinking Hillary beats McCain and put her up. Obama is the only hope against McCain.

    Hillary flip flops more than John Kerry, has less credibility for honesty than GW, and has higher negatives than GW.



    April 27, 2008 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Thelma Ricks

    I listened closely to Dr. Wright's speech tonight . The comment made by the republican spoke person that he put himself out there to make
    money. That's a laugh because they were the ones who kept flashing
    his face and comments on the screen trying to embrass Barack. I feel his speech was not offense to any race. He made a comparison of why we do things differently. I being an educator and working with children agree with what he said. He was not mocking just stating researched facts. Some of the comments from those political people leads me to believe they should do some reading. It is a researched fact that children have different learning styles. So don't get bent out of shape because you are not aware of the facts and try to twist what he said. He followed the THEME that was given by the organization that invited him to speak. A job well done. I've heard his speech about
    five times tonight,so who is keeping who in the spotlight?

    April 27, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  8. All American--->

    I disagree. I am a black woman who has voted since age 17, and if the Democrats steal this election from Barack Obama, after he having earned this nomination, I will leave the party. Why? Because I feel that the party does not recognize me as a valuable part of society. They only want my vote, and I'm NOT to be pimped by anyone!

    I am not stupid enough to vote for John McCain because I really do care about this country. If I didn't, I wouldn't seek to learn about each candidate and what they would do to elevate our country and HOW they would do it. This particular election is much too important for this nonsense we're experiencing. It's really just that serious enough that it can be called a "life-saving election". All of this BS that the media is force-feeding people is ridiculous, and it shows me that they don't give a damn about us OR this country, or else they wouldn't continue to push these lies and spinnings of the truth. I was a die-hard CNN fan, but I have DEFECTED until they come back to their senses.

    More to my point, this race has become so offensive to me, that I could not, in good conscious vote for the source of that offense. No matter WHO I WAS going to vote for, there isn't a chance of that now, and that didn't happen because of the Rev. Wright speech tonight. That happened when Bill Clinton (the President that I voted for TWICE) insulted my intelligence and slid in his little "dog whistle call" for all of the country's racists to come out of the closet. It's a shame that he showed his true colors, and I will never forgive him. You see, it's that way now because I never liked Hillary as First Lady. I wanted her to run because of Bill, so THAT thought is gone out the window because I don't want a racist running around the White House. It was bad enough that he had sex in the White House with a young girl (half his age) and NOT his wife. It's because of him that I voted for him, and it's because of him that I cannot vote for Hillary. And if she's MY choice, I will, for the first time in my voting life, stay home.

    Now the media needs to really ask the question, "What happens if blacks stay home?" AND/OR "What does Hillary do to get back the black vote?" because Democrats CANNOT win without the CORE vote of their MOST LOYAL VOTING BLOCK.

    The thing that is really interesting is that we (blacks) can articulate a REAL reason to not support Hillary, but what has Barack Obama done to her supporters for them to say the same thing? hmmm It's already been noted, time and time again, that they have little air between their policies, so either should get you the same result. (NOT) So what is it about him other than the color of his skin (which is a non-measurement, but an observation)?

    Oh, and by the way. The tone of this campaign is worse than what people experience in their daily lives. Politicians may be used to being the nastiest, back-biting, two-faced, evil-doers they can muster up, but it's not normal, and it shouldn't be acceptable to anyone, including the author of this piece. I'm so sick of hearing that this is mild or it only gets worse. WHY? You should be asking WHY is this okay to treat each other so terribly? If we as Democrats want the same thing, then why do we tear each other down and others say that it's okay? YOU are part of the problem! GROW UP and recognize that tearing people down is NOT accomplishing anything of worth!

    April 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  9. Sherri

    I think you need to talk to your news station, CNN and all the other stations, and tell them to stop asking questions that don't matter to the American people. The only way a candidate can get information out about their positions is to not answer all the ridiculous questions and respond with an answer about the economy, housing, food prizes etc. The news folks would probably cut them off.

    I think news commentators like Anderson are just trying to get ratings for their shows. They loop negative info over and over. It is very frustrating for voters who are really interested in the issues. Please tell them to change their questions.

    I think the Candidates have right to complain about the questions.

    April 27, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  10. Kent, Illinois

    Annie Kate.......

    Obama has given his plan on the issues. The media does not use those sound bites from his speeches or debate answers. It is more fun for them to spin crap about him instead.

    April 26, 2008 at 9:31 am |
  11. neicy

    I am a Barack Obama supporter and I am so sick and tired of the "media" talking about this Rev. Wright issue. Even if I was a supporter of the Hillary Clinton campaign this would not be an issue for me because I don't vote for candidates because of an association with someone. And if you are a Barack Obama supporter you already know who you are going to vote for. I don't like to vote for "liars". So far Barack Obama hasn't told "blatant lies". In my heart I feel that this is turning into a "race" issue.

    April 26, 2008 at 1:43 am |
  12. Ed K.


    Only one way we democrats can lose the general election and it looks like we found it. Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama.


    April 25, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  13. Zo Owen

    Faye, \Ii think you are a remarkable and thoughtful woman
    who ,if I remember correctly, once worked for Planned Parenthood ....and kudos to you.

    Hillary had the potential to be the same kind of presence and perhaps that might have brought me around. I doubt it but i would have honored her more as a person, though.

    Obama's passionate and authentic call to citizens to take the country back from special interests of all kinds and nullify the damaging trade deals Bill Clinton and Bush and Cheney burdened us with, is loud and clear.

    The idea was to so viciously attack Obama's personal life, friends and even his family, chipped away at time better utilized to share his vision

    Hillary is extreme in her range of attacks that go way beyond difference in policy. The polls now show she is considered the most divisive candidates in the last 5 decades. As a woman, I am sorry she took the very low road. Bill, isn't any better.

    April 25, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  14. Gina - Lancaster, PA

    What I don't understand is what issues are they not explaining? What do you want to know about either candidate's positions that is not easily found on their websites? What exactly have you asked Barack Obama that he did not answer?

    April 25, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  15. Annie Kate

    Thank you Faye for stating the obvious – the candidates need to quit whining and complaining and explain their positions on the issues. Hillary is good at saying what she would do on certain issues – breaks it down into steps even. I'm still waiting on Obama to do the same. I hope he will explain what his solutions are pragmatically like Hillary does – then he might reach some of the electorate that he needs in the end to win. We have watched him campaign for months – he started out as a question mark because he was so new and we didn't know what his stand on the issues were – all these months later he is still a question mark. Tell us what we'll get for our vote and maybe you'll get it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 25, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  16. Sue Polinick/Pennsylvania

    what do you think about "push polling".?????.....this was done by the Clinton camp here in Pa and now it was just recorded today in NC. To me, this is badgering. If you want to ask my opinion..at least allow my answer. I was called 10 times in a week....3 x's the day before the primary. Guess they werent satisfied with my choice in Obama.....note: alot of older folks caved, then went ahead and voted for Clinton. Esp after the Bin Laden commerical....fearmongering works among the elderly. period. That my dear is dirty politics.

    April 25, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  17. Kent, Illinois

    Terry Davies-

    I like the way you think...........and write. Totally on the mark by the way. Unfortunately, the hate machine is only getting started on Obama. The big lobbyists and corporations that stand to lose the most money if Obama was elected have yet to start. Not to mention big oil corps. We can only stand by him and believe in him. It isn't gonna be pretty.

    Obama 08

    April 25, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  18. Kent, Illinois

    Maybe so.............but in the end it is a popularity and beauty contest. And, who deals best with the law of attraction.

    Unfortunately, Americans are way too concerned about looks. Fortunately for the candidates, each one of them goes against the grain of who we normally elect. We do not elect balding old men. We have never elected an old woman. And, we have never elected anyone of color. Wow! what and election year. November should be fun.

    April 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  19. Greg Jones

    TIME TO FACE FACTS !!!! The media has diagnosed every demo there is....the old...the young...the rich....the poor...the educated....the uneducated....the bowlers, gun toters and beer drinkers.....And somehow ALWAYS finds a way to give the advantage to Clinton. But just today, the media is finally starting to raise the most incredible point in the whole race. HILLARY HAS LOST THE SUPPORT OF AN ENTIRE RACE OF PEOPLE !!!!!!!! Do you know how incredibly sad this fact is ? Hillary Clinton (who's husband was so loved as to have been called The First Black President) has alienated the black people of America to such a degree that there is no way blacks will support her EVER. This has nothing to do with Obama !!!! Keep in mind folks....Hillary started this campaign with close to 82% of the black support. But as blacks learned more about her (Goldwater Girl....Against Civil Rights Act of '64...etc.) combined with her LBJ statements and Bill's minimizing of Obama (fairy tale...Jesse won S.Carolina too...etc) blacks were first of all shocked...and then incredibly offended by these realities to a degree that can never be recovered. WE FEEL DECEIVED !!!! We hope that our friends of all races understand how we as blacks feel. This is the main story that needs to get out to the superdelegates. Hillary ABSOLUTELY KILLED HER ELECTABILTY. Simple as that !

    Greg Jones
    (A Multi-Racial Organization...Dedicated To Truth)

    April 25, 2008 at 7:55 pm |
  20. Spider


    If there are priests out there that actually discussed the virtues of child molestation from their pulpits, then yes, those parishioners should have left those churches. Furthermore, if one of those parishioners wants my vote for President and sat through those kind of sermons and did nothing, I want to know about it because he/she will not be getting my vote.

    April 25, 2008 at 7:05 pm |
  21. Barbara Querrie

    And why mrs Clinton call it runing of the most important job in the world? For God's sake she is only running to be a president of the United states-a country among other countries.Is she implying the the US is on top of other countries? Now does that associate her with common people?

    April 25, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  22. Cindy Georgia

    Since, Obama is being chastised for what Rev. Wright says should I hold all Catholics responsible for not leaving the Catholic Church after all the highly publicized molestations that took place by beloved priests?

    From what I observed when the Pope was here there are many Catholics attending the church many attending the same parishes molestations took place!

    April 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  23. Terry Davies

    There is this dark side of all of us ,whites, blacks, Arabs, Chinese, of all humans alike, which consists of racial, tribal, cultural, religious, gender , family ,class ,selfish and fear elements. Fanning these elements is the reason for most wars, conflicts, divisions and confusion in the world today. In this sphere of existence objectivity has a different value. It is difficult to be unbiased, clear and think. This has been the tools of oppression by dictators and bigot leaders for years. " Divide and then rule" and " Scare and control"

    We just can't afford American politics which used to be the beacon of world's hope and liberation to completetly degenerate to the lowest ebb of this darkness. What we will have left is war , confusion and chronic division which are albatrosses to good governance, stability and prosperity. This is exactly what this new generation seek to obliterate so we can bring out the bright light of us all working together to create an excellent society, community and country and union for us and our children.

    This is exactly what I saw in Barack Obama's message which grew into a movement beginning from Iowa and resonated till Winsconsin until the class of political terminators dug up Wright's comments, bitter comments, etc to play into the worst fears of certain white folks over security, fanning the dark element of race and culture to move the votes. This was what played out clearly in the last Pennsylvania primary election.

    We should all resist the ploy by some powerful media block like the ABC and FOX news, some Republicans and some self-oriented political figures from exploiting our dark side elements to abuse our thinking and judgment process. I personally feel insulted and put off whenever I hear or see such ads that seek to provoke my feelings or sentiment instead of appealing to my reasoning on issues that affect all Americans.

    I was completely in Clintons corner until I saw hope for my dream in Obama's message. The Clintons have been infested completely with Washington disease. Bush was a great Governor in Texas but today has become a victim of Washington 's game plan. Washinton needs healing. Obama and the new generation caught it. It is not about what a President can do but about what we can all do together. This is the America we have come to love. The United States. The leader of all free world

    April 25, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  24. Denny - Boomer, Pennsylvania

    I agree with the overall sentiment, but I would not say that the campaign has been "relatively civilized." Just because it has not sunk to the level Horton-Swift Boat, it has been needlessly negative. Need to talk policies and not personalities. All the candidates have flaws, and I think most citizens can accept that. I want to hear what they will do to make the US better off. And not just pandering and a plan for everything. What are their priorities and measurable goals?

    April 25, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  25. Kathy, Texas

    AMEN Faye!

    April 25, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  26. Illinois

    Thank you!!! There's absolutely nothing wrong with the ads that are being aired because it brings up character issues, policy issues, and allows people to see how the candidates respond to stress.

    McCain has essentially flown under the radar because more attention is being given to the democratic candidates, but I think he would do ok in the White House if that's the way it goes.

    Hillary is the strongest candidate, by far, given her experience. Her character may be a little off, but she's not associated with terrorists, she's not a racist and doesn't associate herself with racists, and won't take crap from anyone. People can call her "divisive", but they would do that to any female trying to run for president.

    Obama has been a big disappointment. He's fine as long as he's allowed to give a bunch of speeches and no one questions him on anything. The minute someone puts tough questions to him, he complains they're unfair or that he's being "misunderstood" again, and often will cry racism if nothing else works. And he completely falls apart under stress. Not something I want in a president.

    April 25, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  27. thasan/ohio

    initially my comment was going to be" who the heck are you?".. but re-reading it,, she's right! dead on too.

    April 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  28. Mark, VA


    April 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  29. Jacquelyn Harrison

    What is your assessment of television campaign coverage since February?

    I am interested in what factors most influence television campaign related broadcast content and air time allocation, excluding content of paid advertising not addressed in program content.

    Do you think television campaign coverage should clearly compartmentalize news reporting, opinion/commentary, and analysis?

    April 25, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  30. Ilona from AB

    Hi Faye,
    As a Canadian watching the election process I couldn't agree with you more. Where's the beef?
    With utter disbelief I watched the American's vote Bush to a second term over a "swiftboat ad" and "security fear mongering" but now complain he's the worst President ever.
    Maybe if the media had more professionalism instead of worrying about ratings the real issues might be heard. If campaigns are forever going to focus on stupidity (for ratings) instead of issues and the public and press eats it up...then you'll risk electing another President who is more of the same! I just don't get it!

    April 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm |