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Obama invokes Adams-Jefferson race to justify negative campaigning

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President Obama justified his negative campaigning this year with a reference to the nastiness of the race for the White House in 1800 before going on to joke about not having to hit up donors again — at least until fundraising for his presidential library begins.

“And this phase of the campaign I think you’re seeing a lot of negative ads and a lot of contrast ads, although when people start saying how terrible it is, I just have to remind them that take a look at what Jefferson and Adams had to say about each other, and democracy has always been pretty rough and pretty messy,” Mr. Obama told supporters at the NoMad Hotel in New York Monday night.

Even though John Adams and his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, were lifelong friends, their parties were so split after Adams’ first term that the race got downright brutal. Mr. Jefferson accused Mr. 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.” Mr. Adams returned fire, deeming Mr. Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Despite the accuracy of Mr. Obama’s comments, Election 2012 stands in stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s 2008 insistence not to go negative.

“Do we want to have the same old attack politics that we’ve become accustomed to?” Mr. Obama asked in 2008, as a Tuesday story in Buzzfeed points out. “This is a different time. This is an extraordinary time. So we’re not going to run around doing negative ads. We’re going to keep it positive.”

During his remarks at he same event in New York Monday night, Mr. Obama also cracked a joke about perpetually having to ask donors for campaign cash.

He said a friend of his describes being friends with a politician as perpetually having a kid in college.

“Every so often, you have to write this check,” Mr. Obama said, to laughs. “And, fortunately, I’m about to graduate. So this is it guys?”

But one donor got a bit cheeky with the president.

“So you’re not going to call us for the library?” an unidentified person yelled.

“No, no, no,” Mr. Obama replied. “Somebody else will make that call.”

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at scrabtree@washingtontimes.com.

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