Sunday, October 31, 2004
When the rumors of Sen. Jim Bunning's mental state hit their zenith two weeks ago, the righteous indignation was palatable.
GOP forfeits high ground in Senate race
Around Northern Kentucky
Bunning called the rumors "disgusting" and "the lowest of the low." Kentucky's other Senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, called the whisper campaign that had Bunning suffering from dementia or even Alzheimer's an "outrageous attack" by the press and the Democrats.
Kentucky Senate President David Williams, a Republican, called the campaign of Bunning's opponent, Democrat Dan Mongiardo, "the dirtiest I have ever seen."
Neither Mongiardo nor any member of his campaign was ever directly linked to the rumors, which were roundly and loudly denied by Bunning.
His anger was justified. Bunning made some gaffes on the campaign trail, but he's not sick, he's not crazy and he's not too old to hold office. Though he should have addressed the rumors earlier, Bunning finally reached out to the press and the public in a series of events that showed he is still capable.
Bunning's efforts beat back the smear campaign and it appeared that public was with him, believing that he had been the victim of a vicious and untrue round of calculated attacks.
But rather than stay on the high road, some of the very Republicans that had been crying foul turned around in a hypocritical frenzy and began dishing dirt on Mongiardo.
Give the Bunning supporters credit, at least they stayed on message - and that message is that Mongiardo, a single physician, is gay.
Williams, who most of this week was on a statewide bus tour with Bunning, used the stump to call Mongiardo a "limp wrist" and "switch hitter." Kentucky Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Tori, also a Republican, said she was not sure the word "man" applied to Mongiardo and that "all he does is whine."
Bunning was asked by reporters to repudiate the comments; he refused.
So successful were the Republicans at generating a buzz about Mongiardo's lifestyle that he was forced to answer reporters' questions about his sexuality. For the record, he said, he is not gay. But the seed was planted in the minds of conservative voters that there might be a question about Mongiardo.
If it was so bad for Bunning's health to be questioned, why did Republicans turn right around and question Mongiardo's sexuality? Does Sen. Bunning think that is "low" and "disgusting?" If the Dems are guilty of rumor mongering and election-year whisper campaigns, aren't Republicans doing the very thing they were so upset with when the other side did it?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Crowley interviews 4th Congressional District candidate Geoff Davis this week on ICN6's "On The Record," which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.
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