Sunday, August 1, 2004

Politics can be dirty, but this is nasty



Teresa Heinz Kerry tells a reporter to "shove it."

Vice President Dick Cheney drops an "F" bomb on the Senate floor.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning tells a group of supporters that his opponent - Dr. Dan Mongiardo, a Democrat of Italian descent - looks like Saddam Hussein's sons.

Big deal.

Anyone who is "shocked" by this apparent lack of civility in politics hasn't spent enough time around politicians.

A reporter being told to shove it? If I had a dime for every time that was said to me, I'd be living next door to Bill Gates.

The "F" word in politics? The language at some political events would make bikers blush.

Taking a cheap shot at an opponent? Not the best way to run a campaign, but it happens.

The media are partially to blame for covering cussing and insulting, but that's our job. This stuff is part of the political process - albeit not the most important part - and should be covered.

But it's generally harmless.

For some real nasty politics, we have the Democrats dropping hints that Bunning is suffering from some type of disease or illness. I've heard at least three ailments so far and expect to receive an e-mail any day that he has Elephant Man's disease. (For the record, he doesn't).

The Mongiardo camp also has hit Bunning for not showing up at a forum where the two candidates were invited to speak. There was an inference that since Bunning wasn't there, he must be sick.

Hardly. Not giving an opponent the opportunity to take a shot is classic Bunning. Are the voters deprived of some side-by-side comparisons? Absolutely. But that's not the way Bunning drives the bus.

The Kentucky Dems want Bunning to release his medical records. He refused and won't comment. Maybe he should take the challenge.

That's what Bunning did a few years ago, when he believed some Dems close to former Gov. Paul Patton were spreading rumors he was dying.

Bunning took the issue head on, saying he felt fine, wasn't sick and wasn't slowing down. That probably wouldn't hurt now.

With the whole episode, the Dems appear to be grasping. Mongiardo has worked hard, but he hasn't been able to raise the money needed to take on a GOP incumbent in a Republican "red" state. Polls show him nearly 20 points behind.

If the Democrats think Bunning is sick, they should say it with specifics, not whisper campaigns.

According to some e-mails I saw a few weeks ago, state and national Democratic Party leaders were giddy that a story about Bunning's health was going to come out.

It's clear they think there is political hay to be made with the issue.

It's enough to make you sick.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com. Patrick Crowley interviews Florence Mayor Diane Whalen and Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee this week on ICN6's "On The Record," which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.




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