Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Lifetime Supply of Gander Sauce

My suggested headline was “Swallowing Their Own Medicine” but apparently that wasn’t specific enough. A newspaper-looking version of the column is here.

East Valley Tribune, Aug. 10, 2008

Thanks to vote-by-mail, we now enjoy the formerly "last minute hit piece" often weeks ahead of Election Day. And, despite scads of faux outrage by my counterpart hacks on the GOP side, I do mean, "enjoy." Negative campaigning is like a freeway car wreck; we say we deplore it, but just try to stop us from rubbernecking.

Nobody's talking much about the contested Democratic primaries for the Corporation Commission and Maricopa County Attorney, because those candidates are running clean, issue-oriented campaigns, just like we always claim we want (cue tongue-clucking), then don't pay attention to because -- Look! Over there! Mud!

This year, the really nasty stuff seems reserved to GOP legislative primaries and, for clearly biased Democratic observers like me, it's a lifetime supply of gander sauce. It's much more fun when these guys practice their dark arts on each other, so we're sitting back and enjoying the show.

So far, the nastiest mudslinging -- excuse me, the hardest-hitting campaigning -- is in a Maricopa County GOP House primary, where voters received a mailer with copies of court filings from an incumbent's divorce case. 'Wingers are outraged that one of their heroes is being attacked with domestic abuse allegations his spouse made in 1985. "That's so long ago!" they cry. "And that's his private life! It's outrageous!"

People crying about "privacy" today were, four weeks ago, making tasteless jokes about the domestic crackup of my soon-to-be-former state legislator in District 11. That's the problem when your jests "push the envelope" of good taste; you create room for other people, too. Too bad.

And as for how long ago these allegations were made? Yes, shame on anyone for thinking anything that happened in 1985 is relevant to an election today. Of course, these same people had no problem making the 2004 election turn on whether John Kerry remembered exactly every single detail of what he did (and didn't do) in Vietnam. Because after all, 1985 is ancient history, but 1965 -- that's baby boomer prime time, and it's entirely relevant.

Too bad the mailer wasn't sent by "Swift Boat Veterans for Exposure and Prevention of Domestic Abuse." Then these Republicans wouldn't have had anything to complain about.

The other enjoyable intramural mud-wrestling match is in Pima County, where a relatively moderate GOP incumbent is battling a primary challenge from a hard-line conservative. 'Wingers are outraged that the incumbent is using right-wing buzzwords and phrases on his campaign signs to try to survive the primary, after which he'll start emphasizing his moderate credentials for the general election.

Yes, this tactic is surely an outrage, and I'm sure that these critics will not stop lambasting John McCain for dropping his "maverick" shtick for down-the-line conservative orthodoxy, then after clinching the nomination, flipping back to his long-discarded "maverick" persona for the general. Shame on any Republican who "pivots" for the general election -- unless he's running against a Democrat, apparently.

'Wingers upset with this wanton Republican moderate have suddenly discovered the glories of intellectual property law; they are trying to stop people from putting the trademarked GOP elephant on campaign signs supporting the incumbent.

So now 'wingers claim you can't identify a candidate's party using the elephant logo unless you get permission from the Republican National Committee? Some committee in Washington, DC, gets to decide who's an elephant-eligible Republican and who isn't?

I look forward to Republicans developing a licensing system under which people apply to be deemed acceptable by party apparatchiks inside the Beltway, becoming eligible to use the precious elephant logo. Remember when Republicans liked to call their party a "big tent?" Those days are long gone. Anybody can get into a tent; 'wingers now want to make sure that only people of whom they approve can get into "the club."

And just as conservative pundits keep offering unsolicited advice to Barack Obama, with surely only his best interests at heart, let me say that I think this is a truly wonderful idea.

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