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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Oct 10, 2012 - 9:09:42 AM

Presidential Politics: Why so much vitriol?
By Steve Ferber
Oct 10, 2012 - 9:08:40 AM

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I’m a bit perplexed. These are two good men. Solid. Resilient. Resourceful. Organized. Diplomatic. Thoughtful. Intelligent. So why do Americans spend so much time bashing the candidate they plan to vote against?
Both are family men, both recognize that a strong family unit is a core principle underlying a vibrant society. They’re both patient and well studied, with a good sense of humor. And they both get it. Without question, as the debate last week illustrated, they’re both intent on improving the economy and job opportunities for Americans (albeit through different pathways). And they’re both interested in strengthening America’s standing in the world, protecting us from the myriad dangers we face daily.
Why then such acrimony?
Personally, I find both Romney and Obama to be quite likeable.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve watched Romney endure an absolute thrashing. And he’s still standing. Any normal human being would be exhausted by now, weathered from the pounding of the press, the demands of his own party and the constant critique from the opposition (first, in the primaries, and now, in the general election). Survival of the fittest? No question. His credentials remain first class – an impressive business career, coupled with a standout Olympic performance and the Governorship of Massachusetts.
What’s the problem here?
Then there’s Obama.  Cool under pressure, thoughtful and studied, he’s taken a broken economy and laid the groundwork for future growth. And while he was piecing together a fix for the worst economic crisis since 1929, Obama was also ending a war in Iran, drawing down from a war in Afghanistan, shepherding a law aimed at arresting our nation’s health care disaster, building stronger international relations, investing in renewable energy and supporting moves worldwide toward democracy.
What’s the problem here?
Both men care deeply about the country, and both recognize that the nation’s huge and growing debt stands ready to co-opt this country’s future. They get it. But fixing it stands next to impossible, when you’re trying to simultaneously maintain a strong defense and support Americans in need (and no, seniors with healthy portfolios don’t need to receive social security checks). Let’s face it: our nation’s budget challenge boils down to just four major areas: defense, social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Taken together, these four represent more than 60% of the budget.
Back in 1985, as a Washington, DC journalist, I covered the White House daily, reporting on the economic decisions being made by Congress and then President Ronald Reagan. The decisions then are no different than those today, in style or substance. The more pressing challenge, it seems, is reducing the level of angst both in Congress and the American public.
Recent polls reveal that only 18% of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing. And it’s clear, congressional gridlock is crippling this country. But I wonder, at times, how the American public would rate itself.
If asked: “Do you approve of the job that Americans are doing?” in terms of resolving conflict and working together, how would we fare? How much time do we take to honestly, sincerely, genuinely entertain other views? It’s up to us to sort through the vitriol and work together to find solutions.
So let’s back off. Let’s find a way to support the candidate of our choice without bashing the opposition. Yes, differences exist, both in style and platform, and that’s what we’ll base our vote on next month. But if we, as Americans, don’t take the high road – at the office cooler, in the clubhouse or at Ladies Night Out – how pray tell will our congressional counterparts ever get there.
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