Negative campaigns leave no true winner

Ned Cantwell

Memo from New Mexico to those who would be our president:
OK, Mr. President, you first. May I call you George? I mean, you seem like the kind of guy I could sit around a campfire with, drinking beer and telling raunchy jokes.
And you, Mr. John Kerry. You are bright, rich, a battle hero. Although, I need to tell you, I ran into a van driver in El Paso, a veteran who said the only thing he really knows about you is that you tossed war medals into the trash, and that does it for him. You won’t be getting his vote.
A question for both of you. Here’s what confuses the folks out in New Mexico. You guys are spending umpteen million bucks trying to destroy one another’s reputation. And all the studies about negative advertising suggest you will be successful.
So here’s the deal. If the election in November is as close as the political experts say it will be, half of the country will end up hating the winner. No matter what the next president does, he’ll be second-guessed. It will be a “See, I told you so” type of thing.
What sense does that make? Do you think that when those old boys in their frilly colonial outfits sat around dreaming up this system they had any idea you guys would abuse it so?
If you two had any of the decorum of George Washington, or John Adams, or Ben Franklin, you would ratchet down the rhetoric a notch or two. Maybe you ought to wear wigs to get in the mood.
George, my guess is you are probably a pretty good guy and you ought to listen to your own instincts instead of those of Karl Rove and the other hatchet men you surround yourself with. Calling Kerry a “serial tax increaser,” using the word normally associated with rapists and murderers, is clearly ugly.
And John, when you say President Bush’s economic policy is designed to eliminate jobs so the people won’t have to pay high gasoline prices to get to them, you know you are being unfair.
We simple folks out here in New Mexico just don’t get it. You boys play in a hate league way beyond our comprehension. Out here, when a city council candidate vandalizes his own yard signs and then issues a press release blaming his opponent, we think we are playing hardball.
In the Land of Enchantment, when Republican bomb thrower John Dendahl calls Gov. Bill Richardson the “emperor” — or whatever silly term he has for him — we think we’ve hit bottom. When the good old boys bully Ramsay Gorham out of her job, we think it doesn’t get much nastier.
You two, though, are just vicious. And the country will pay the price of learning well the politics of hate. What you guys need to do is sneak off privately some Saturday morning, just the two of you. Set some sensible rules and live by them.
You want to be our president? Show some class.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated columnist who lives in Ruidoso. Contact him at: ncantwell@charter.net