Political parties employ a wide range of tools that voters might not know about. They rely on partisan “think tanks” to provide a rationale for their policies… They employ psychologists to find words and phrases that resonate in our subconscious minds… They dig up dirt about their opponents and “leak” it to the media…
And they sometimes use “dirty tricks.”
These are not just the everyday lies we’ve come to expect in political campaigns. And they are not just fictitious rumors like the famous story about John McCain fathering a black baby and the hilarious accusation that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring from the basement of a pizzeria.
We should be accustomed to these false tales by now. They’ve been standard fare forever. Congressman Davy Crockett accused candidate Martin Van Buren of secretly wearing a female corset back in 1836.
“Dirty tricks” include elaborate schemes designed to discredit some candidate or group. And they’ve been around at least since Richard Nixon’s tricky era.
(For example, Nixon’s henchman Donald Segretti composed a fake letter on Edmund Muskie’s letterhead falsely accusing Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of fathering a child with a 17-year-old girl.)
Today’s Republican Party has doubled down on this strategy.
You probably know about a Republican “oper4ative” named James O’Keefe who uses disguised actors and edited videotapes to smear Democrats. He has targeted such groups as ACORN and Planned Parenthood,with concocted interviews that were later debunked.
O’Keefe is still around (funded by the Trump Foundation) and still trying to trick Democrats.
But he doesn’t always succeed.
Recently, for example, he hired a woman to tell the Washington Post she was impregnated by Republican candidate Roy Moore when she was 15 and had an abortion. The Post had exposed Moore’s sexual pursuit of high school girls when he was in his thirties, and O’Keefe was obviously hoping to discredit the story – and the women who accused Moore of molesting them.
But the Post editorial staff are pros. They don’t get tricked that easily. They checked out the woman’s claims, found they were false, and published an account of the attempt to trick them instead of the false story O’Keefe had tried to plant.
Now, he’s the one with egg on his face. But you can’t bet this won’t stop O’Leefe and the other dirty tricksters waiting in the wings.