Sunday, November 05, 2006

Contest For Most Disgraceful Campaign


Sunday, November 5, 2006



Connecticut's usual complaint is that it has few competitive political campaigns. So this year the state is seeing what competitive campaigns are like -- demagogic and stupid.

The most demagogic and stupid parts are the TV and radio ads.

Nancy Johnson is supposed to have gotten "caught red-handed" -- doing what was never made clear.

Rob Simmons is supposed to have been "a rubber stamp for Bush" when he long has been among the 10 House Republicans most often breaking with their own party.

As state legislators, Joe Courtney is supposed to have been "the tax man" and Chris Murphy is supposed to have "voted to raise taxes 27 times," even as their opponents, Simmons and Johnson, have voted in Congress for so much deficit spending as to make Courtney and Murphy look cheap.

Joe Lieberman is supposed to be considered a Republican even though he has ADA and ACLU ratings around 80 percent.

Ned Lamont is supposed to be considered a Republican because of his votes more than a decade ago as a selectman in Greenwich.

Lamont, Courtney, and Murphy are supposed to be disqualified by their inexperience, as if the great experience of Lieberman, Simmons, and Johnson did anything to avert the catastrophe in Iraq.

Johnson, the queen of special-interest campaign contributions, even has a commercial condemning Murphy for taking contributions from special interests.

Johnson and some other candidates are broadcasting both attack ads and ads complaining that their opponents are broadcasting attack ads.

Each candidate who has dished out such trash may deserve it dished back to him. But the real damage here is not to the candidates but to the country's chance of ever having a serious discussion about difficult issues.

Johnson's campaign probably has been the most disgraceful for piling fear mongering on top of demagoguery. Her commercials lately accuse her opponent, Murphy, of voting to let sex offenders live in public housing and to reduce penalties for drug dealers. One Johnson commercial even depicts Murphy being welcomed into the home of a drug dealer. It's funny, but Johnson must hope that laughs will pre-empt any thought.

For just where are released sex offenders who can't support themselves supposed to live? Under bridges? Even the most rehabilitated sex offender will have trouble getting a job that can pay for an ordinary home. Even if he lives in a homeless shelter, he will be in a form of public housing. So does Johnson propose life sentences in prison for all sex offenders? The death penalty? Those would seem to be the alternatives. But of course Johnson's commercials don't say.

As for drugs, does Johnson consider the "war on drugs" a success, now that the United States has the biggest prison population in the world, percentage-wise, its prison population is so racially disproportionate, and drugs are more prevalent than ever anyway? How about the fatherless 17-year-old who sells marijuana to another kid? Hard time for him? Connecticut actually imprisons some such teen-agers. Is Johnson proud of that? Is she proud of delaying the day when this issue can be discussed reasonably, just so that she might scare voters into giving her a 25th and 26th year in Washington?

The important issues are the records of the incumbents, the contrary policies (if any) of the challengers, and an issue that is just starting to be perceived -- whether any virtue in Connecticut's Republican U.S. representatives is worth enabling another Republican majority in the House.

As for the two major Senate candidates, it is hard to decide whose campaign has been more disappointing.

Lieberman got into politics almost 40 years ago to oppose a war that was conceived in misapprehension and conducted in deceit and whose objectives were not worth the cost. He challenged the establishment. Today he is a leading advocate of the same sort of war, and to finance his campaign he has leapt into the arms of special interests and called it bi-partisanship. One of his commercials panders with a promise to crack down on Internet predators -- as if a federal government that can't secure the borders and ports can do much for parents who want to watch "Desperate Housewives" while their kids are alone on the computer. So much for the "personal responsibility" Lieberman used to advocate.

As a novice, Lamont may deserve a pass for his campaign's ineptness after the Democratic primary. As a rich guy who poured $16 million into his campaign, he should have gotten more for his money. Instead he fell in love with the angry, self-righteous, and cutesy left that rallied to him at the beginning, that talked only to itself, and that never realized that the election was not the primary. Maybe most disappointing, Lamont never argued Lieberman's insincerity and the insincerity of most supporters of the war in Iraq, their refusal to advocate the application to the war of the resources necessary to win it -- an argument that might have broken through to the other side.

Lamont's failure of strategy is about to make Lieberman a national hero, the courageous independent above party. The left will find little consolation in the inconvenience through which it put Lieberman back home. For with the Senate closely divided, Lieberman will be instantly forgiven everything as he returns to the Democratic caucus.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.


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