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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004


Stand by this!
Micky Kaus, Law Professor Rick Hansen and the Wall Street Journal discuss the "stand by your ad" provision of campaign finance reform (requiring the candidate to appear onscreen at the end of an ad giving his endorsement to it), both its legality and its effects. I'm wary of campaign finance reform in general, and this sort of thing just gives me the willies. As Kaus asks, who is the government to tell candidates what to say when?

The Wall Street Journal article notes that this sort of thing has already had a major effect in the Democratic primaries. Dean and Gephardt both went negative in Iowa, and both lost big (whether or not there's causation there, of course, no one can say), and no one has dared do so since. As such, Kerry is cruising towards the nomination very much unscathed.

The article sees this as a plus for Kerry. I see it as a negative for the Democratic party, and for the democratic process in general. Shouldn't a presidential candidate be tested and tried before he gets the nomination? Shouldn't he wade through the fires of negative campaigning and electioneering, and prove himself up to the task of running for President for real? As it stands, Democrats have just about picked a candidate they know almost nothing about. When negative campaigning starts--and it will, one way or another (here's an easy example of how it will be done)--no one knows how Kerry will hold up.

But my real interest in all of this is how this rule will be creatively avoided or exploited so as to allow negative ads without condemning the candidate at the end of them. We may not see any of this in the Presidential election--the stakes are too high for this sort of experimentation--but, mark my words, we'll see some ingenious creativity in this regard at some point. I've got a couple suggestions to kick off the season

1) "I'm George W. Bush, and I am supposed to tell you that I endorse this ad. But I just can't. This negative attack ad is just the sort of thing that is turning people off to the political process. I'm sorry you had to see it, and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

2) "I'm George W. Bush, and I'm supposed to tell you that I endorse this ad. I don't want to, because it's negative, it's mudslinging, and it's what's turning Americans off to the political process. But, with a heavy heart, I will endorse it, because it's true. And Americans deserve the truth, even if it's negative."

I'm sure there are some other ideas out there. Hopefully we'll see some of them this year, though it may take a while for people to get so sick of the rule that parodying it is welcome.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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