Trouble With Surrogates

It seems that presidential campaigns cannot avoid the plethora of surrogates parading endlessly on prime time and all news cable stations to applaud the qualities of their chosen candidates. A little over a week ago, Charlie Black, a McCain strategist, stated that a terrorist attack might actually help Senator McCain because of his extensive national security experience. The senator quickly dissociated himself from that comment. Last Sunday, General Wesley Clark, an Obama supporter, questioned Senator McCain’s qualifications to be president because of his military record—not terribly smart, and Senator Obama also dissociated himself from those comments.

This is not the first time that a surrogate gets a candidate in trouble. The skeptics claim that these surrogates are either planting seeds of doubt or launching trial balloons. More often, however, the surrogates are freelancing and acting more out of ego and opportunity. Whatever the motive, it is clear that these surrogates are no better than the negative ads which often distort the truth and engage in character assassination. Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama would do well to declare a truce with surrogates masquerading as experts and spokespersons. Better to have official spokespersons, such as a director of communications, a policy director, and/or acknowledged pundits provide additional information for the elector. It would be more in tune with the promise of Obama and McCain to raise the level of debate.

This promises to be an exciting campaign with clear choices and candidates who have won their respective nominations through principle, character, and hard work. It would be ironic that those very qualities be challenged by the ill-timed remarks of designated surrogates.