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Come on in -- the mud is fine
by Molly Ivins
Star-Telegram
February 19
, 2004

Anyone who is not enjoying American politics at this point is missing an important gene and a sense of humor. Whee, we're off! Like a dirty shirt, like a herd of turtles, it's the 2004 presidential campaign.

My friends, the media have not begun to overuse the horse-race metaphor. The candidates are rounding the first turn, into the backstretch, a leader breaks from the pack. He stumbles, he falls!

Now the long-faced gray from Massachusetts moves up, the showy Palomino from North Carolina hangs in, and the General drops out. It's muddy out there. Splat! Splat! Splat!

My favorite campaign document of recent days is from a conservative e-mail newsletter, Talon. (You can't make this stuff up.) In the Feb. 13 update, Item One is a nasty piece of gossip about a Democratic contender, whereas Item Three (I swear) is: "Gutter Politics to Get Uglier: Reacting in part to the relentless questioning of the President's service record, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said Wednesday that despite being so early in the campaign season, the Democrats have made clear they intend to run the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics."

I think we need a rule calling for at least two paragraphs between spreading nasty gossip and then decrying the spreading of nasty gossip. On television and radio, 24 hours should be required. Standards must be maintained here, team.

In the category of most ludicrous attack, we have an outcry (well, sort of an outcry) over the horrible news that John Kerry takes money from special-interest lobbyists. Lawsy, I swan -- I had to sit down and fan myself when I heard it. Corporate special-interest money in politics! What next?

In fact, Kerry has compiled an enviable record by Democratic standards in this field. He's No. 1 in special-interest money, reflecting nothing other than Washington's early conventional wisdom on the subject.

Happily for politics as usual, Kerry has surged to the fore and is now undergoing the pluperfectly idiotic political experience of being called the candidate of special interests by Republicans! Oh, this is so rich, how can you not rejoice?

President Bush has raised many times more money from corporate special interests than John Kerry -- seven times what Kerry has raised from the pharmaceutical industry and 28 times what Kerry's raised from telephone utilities, for example. Bush has raised four times as much directly from lobbyists.

But that didn't stop the Bush campaign from sending out an e-mail video to 6 million supporters accusing Kerry of being the candidate of the special interests!

But for sheer, vicious nastiness, no one can compete with Ann Coulter, whose latest error-riddled effusion is an attack on former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who has been critical of the Bush administration.

Apparently in an effort to make George W.'s incomplete tour in the National Guard look better, Coulter wrote a column distributed by the Heritage Foundation saying that Cleland, a triple amputee, had shown "no bravery" in Vietnam, "didn't give his limbs for his country" and is not a war hero. My favorite sentence is: "Luckily for Cleland he happened [to lose his limbs] while in Vietnam," her point being that if he had been injured at Fort Dix, he wouldn't be a hero.

He also wouldn't have been under enemy fire at Fort Dix. She says he lost his legs in "a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends." Actually, Cleland lost his limbs when a grenade detonated after he and another soldier jumped off a helicopter in a combat zone.

As for not being a war hero, Cleland earned the Silver Star in a separate incident that occurred just four days before he was injured. The citation reads, "When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland disregarded his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted them in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army."

How lucky for Cleland.

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Topplebush.com
Posted: February 23, 2004

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