An American tradition

The art of "negative" campaigning is often said to have taken off with Lee Atwater’s provocative "Willie Horton" television advertisement.

But Mental Floss magazine reminds us that "negative" campaigning his been around since the nation’s founding and will undoubtedly continue no matter what "regulatory" efforts are made to "clean up" campaigns.

Mental Floss gives the presidential campaign featuring Thomas Jefferson aandt John Adams the distinction of begetting negative campaigns.

According to the magazine, "Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a ‘hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.’

"In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson ‘a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.’"

Jefferson even went so far as to hire James Callendar, who perhaps should be considered the country’s first political operative, to do his attacking for him.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.