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A Historical Perspective On The Continuing Edwards/Coulter Clash


Appearing on CBS’ “Early Show,” Elizabeth Edwards repeated her call for civility:

…the candidate’s wife said it didn’t used to be all right for people to “call names, to say these hateful kind of things.” Edwards said as a parent, she doesn’t think it should be allowed to happen now.

Ann Coulter and the Edwards’ have repeatedly clashed this election cycle. The initial clash came back in March, when Coulter called John Edwards a “faggot” while speaking at CPAC, however tensions escalated last week when Elizabeth Edwards confronted Ann Coulter on MSNBC’s Hardball in order to respond to comments she had made earlier in the week.

Elizabeth Edwards is right to call for increased civility in politics and to request that all refrain from pointless ad hominem attacks. However, her reasoning is simply wrong; the reason why we should avoid personal attacks has nothing to do with history. Take a look at some of the attacks that took place in past elections…

Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) vs. John Adams (Federalist)

  • Federalist papers claimed that electing Thomas Jefferson would lead to the “teaching of murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest.”

Election of 1828: Andrew Jackson (Jacksonian Democrat) vs. John Quincy Adams (National Republican)

  • Adams attacked Jackson’s marriage, accusing him of living in sin with his wife Rachel, because Rachel’s divorce from her prior marriage had not been finalized when Andrew Jackson married her. Jackson’s wife was referred to as an “American Jezebel” and was branded as a convicted adulteress. Adams sent out pamphlets that asked, “Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and christian land?” Rachel Jackson was also called a “strumpet” and a “whore” in some papers covering the election.
  • Jackson was accused of being a murderer among other unpleasant things.
  • Adams was accused of providing the Russian Czar with American virgins to serve as his servants while Adams was Minister to Russia.

Election of 1848: Zachary Taylor (Whigs) vs. Lewis Cass (Democrats) vs. John Parker Hale (Free Soil)

  • Democrats attacked Taylor for being uneducated, mean and greedy.
  • Whigs attacked Cass for being a liar.

Election of 1884: James Blaine (Republicans) vs. Grover Cleveland (Democrats)

  • Taking a swipe at the supporters of Cleveland, Blaine’s campaign spokesman said: “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion.”
  • Cleveland was accused of having a child out of wedlock, abandoning that child at an orphanage and then placing the mother of that child into an asylum.

Election of 1920: Warren G. Harding (Republicans) vs. James Cox (Democrats)

  • Harding was erronously accused of having African-American ancestry.

Election of 1964: Lydon B. Johnson (Democrats) vs. Barry Goldwater (Republicans)

  • Johnson accused Goldwater of having ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

I could carry on and demonstrate how plenty of presidential elections in American history resulted in mudslinging, personal attacks, libel/slander and absurd accusations. As an American, it’s not something that I’m proud of. I wish…

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