News

Today, candidates appear together

In a departure from the increasingly nasty environment of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain will make a joint appearance today in New York to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

It's the kind of civility that the public says it wants in politics, but rarely gets.

“It says that, despite all the differences, they agree broadly on issues of patriotism and the need to oppose the forces that caused 9-11,” said John Geer, the editor of The Journal of Politics.

The candidates plan to visit the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attack seven years ago. They also have agreed to suspend television ads today.

The event will mark the first time since each was nominated that they have appeared together.

“On Thursday,” McCain and Obama said in a joint statement, “we will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity, to honor the memory of each and every American who died, and to grieve with families and friends who lost loved ones.”

The event's tone will present a contrast to the campaign atmosphere of the past few weeks. While presidential campaigns historically are full of specious charges from both sides, this year's rhetoric is unusually harsh.

Wednesday, for instance, McCain's campaign launched two new ads. One charged that Obama was “ready to smear,” while the other had a warning about the Democratic nominee's strategy for dealing with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

“As Obama drops in the polls,” the 30-second TV spot says, “he'll try to destroy her.”

Obama fired back.

“I don't care what they say about me,” he said at a campaign stop in Norfolk, Va. “But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and Swift boat politics. Enough is enough.”

The dilemma for candidates has long been that “people say they don't want candidates to attack each other, but it's been shown that attack ads work,” said Penni Pier, a political communication expert at Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa. But not always, she added.

“If you are undecided, you need the adversarial comments, but the candidate also risks a backlash. You can go too far,” Pier said. “Candidates also need the cooperative rhetoric.”

  Comments