Candidates use fear tactics to win votes

At least two Texas lawmakers, both seeking re-election in November, have taken the political lie to disgusting new lows.

By now people should be used to politicians’ lies. It’s hard to think of any official, at any level, who has kept every campaign promise. The White House issues rosy statements about a presumed economic recovery, even as various economic indicators prove them wrong; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surely can’t expect people to believe her silly statement that unemployment benefits — paying people not to work — actually create jobs.

Most of the lies are in this vein, campaign promises that won’t, and often can’t, be kept, or statements about their work or party that aren’t based on reality.

But the Texas officials, both Republicans, are taking dishonesty to a new extreme. They are telling lies to stir up more fear about the supposed threat of violence from Mexico, and raising public resentment toward Hispanics in the process.

Gov. Rick Perry, for example, recently told a national television audience that Mexican terrorists were bombing the city of El Paso.

“You’ve got bullets hitting the city hall in El Paso,” Perry said July 28 on the Fox channel. “You’ve got bombs exploding in El Paso.” Although he was noncommittal when host Greta Van Susteren asked him to verify his statement, it was no mistake. Perry repeated the allegation two days later in a speech in Laredo.

Bullets did strike El Paso’s city hall June 29 and are believed to be strays from a firefight in Ciudad Juarez. Bullets from a similar battle in Matamoros reached the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College in September 2009. No one was hurt in either incident. No bombs have gone off in El Paso, however, according to local news media.

Perry’s campaign of late has focused on raising public fears about the border, even demanding to meet face-to-face with President Obama — and no one else — to demand greater barriers between his state and Mexico. The president, like the Texas governor, can’t initiate legislation, and the bills Perry is demanding already have been filed in Congress.

Last week, state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, told a CNN audience that she knew of an elaborate plot in which foreign-born women were sneaking across our southern border specifically to give birth to children in this country and raise them as terrorists.

When host Anderson Cooper asked for details to support her allegations, Riddle only said that Americans should be alarmed that neither the president nor the FBI is investigating the issue. We aren’t privy to all FBI investigations — Riddle probably isn’t either — but if her allegations haven’t drawn attention it’s surely because the evidence doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in other campaigns and the events surrounding anti-Hispanic legislation recently passed in Arizona and elsewhere, there’s no shortage of people who will leap on these kinds of charges, false though they are, to justify further actions against people of Hispanic descent. It’s awful to think that in the future young dark-skinned children who are playing with toy guns or staging swordfights with branches or plastic toys — as children often do — could face grief from strangers who accuse them of training to be terrorists.

With these kinds of allegations — which they must know are false — Perry and Riddle have sought to make political hay with little regard for the truth, or for the hatred they foment.

They should be ashamed of themselves.