Editorials

Republicans are playing dirty in their bid to beat Claire McCaskill in November

McCaskill and Hawley debate roars on after the debate

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and challenger Josh Hawley squared off in a debate on Thursday at KMBC-TV. As soon as it was over they were pressing their positions to multiple media outlets.
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U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and challenger Josh Hawley squared off in a debate on Thursday at KMBC-TV. As soon as it was over they were pressing their positions to multiple media outlets.

Sen. Claire McCaskill has clearly had it. And who can blame her?

“He has spent this entire campaign trying to trash me personally, ad after ad, that I am somehow self-dealing when all my Republican colleagues know I would never vote to enhance my wealth,” she said in a debate this week about charges from her Republican rival, Josh Hawley. “I would never do that.”

Hawley is hardly alone in launching this all-in, ongoing onslaught against Missouri’s incumbent Democratic senator. Republican dark-money, mask-their-true-identities groups have joined in with unusual gusto as the campaign hits the home stretch.

They’ve hit McCaskill with all manner of silly, crazy stuff. The senator, said one radio ad sponsored by the Stars and Stripes Forever PAC, backs “teaching about Islam” in schools. Now there’s a crime for you.

McCaskill, another hate-spewing radio spot suggests, supports lynchings. Still another ad accuses the Democrat, who favors abortion rights, of not caring about black babies.

“And it looks to me,” an African-American woman says in the radio ad, “the only black lives that matter to Claire McCaskill are the ones that have a pulse and can make it to the polls to vote for her.”

It should come as no surprise that the motivation for the spots is to discourage African Americans from backing the senator’s re-election. That comes from Vernon Robinson, treasurer of Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, the group paying for the ads in Kansas City and St. Louis.

“Without 90 percent of the black vote, Claire McCaskill will not be re-elected,” he said.

Republicans have used hidden cameras. They’ve targeted McCaskill’s husband, businessman Joseph Shepard, with disgusting, and years-old, domestic violence accusations that remain unproven and utterly disconnected from the central question here, which is whether McCaskill deserves another term.

Ads have talked about McCaskill’s use of an airplane. She’s so wealthy, announcers intone, that McCaskill no longer can relate to everyday Missourians. Give us a break. The senator was once a single mom in Kansas City raising three kids, and she once shared her home with her aging parents.

And never mind that she was raised in rural Houston, Missouri.

The point here is that Republicans are going to any length to pry this seat from the Democrats. Voters should understand that the GOP efforts are over-the-top, mostly wildly inaccurate and, in some cases, blatantly racist. They want this seat, and there is little they are unwilling to do to win it.

Something else is worth noting. All these negative, personal attacks divert energy and attention from what could have been a fascinating, serious-minded, issue-oriented race. In August, we endorsed Hawley’s idea of a series of flatbed-truck debates. In a 50-50 state with two articulate candidates, why not?

But the idea obviously was too risky because it never came to pass. What did follow is a lot of garbage flying at voters from their televisions and radios. Republicans have debased themselves and have written a new, ugly chapter in the ongoing saga of what’s wrong with American politics.

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