Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Through the looking glass

It's October. And you know what that means.

It means the World Series. The start of hockey's regular season and pro basketball's training camps. The changing of the leaves in certain parts of the country. Classic rock radio stations using the word "Rock-tober" whenever possible.

And political ads appearing on television.


Is there anything more misleading on television than a political spot? Well, outside of the Fox News Channel's "fair and balanced" claim?

There is much that is distasteful about the political process in the United States, but television commercials top the list. The political ads seem to ooze out of the ground in the fall. Pictures of opponents are always done in grainy black and white, usually featuring a frown. The shots of the candidates themselves are in color, and they usually feature children -- even if the kids are borrowed from someone else's family.

What's more, the text is always a bit disturbing. Let's say someone has proposed a bill that would increase police funding by 15 percent, not expecting to get that number passed. The office-holder winds up voting for a slightly smaller number, say 10 percent, as part of the negotiation process. Only in the world of television ads would that be an example of the opposing candidate voting to cut police funding.

Then there's the matter of ads sponsored by national political action committees. When my district had a closely contested race two years ago, the out-of-town money came flooding in. You would have thought that Tom DeLay was somehow running in the district, considering how much his name came up in the ads. It looks as if the out-of-towners are responsible for the really nasty ads, although we're merely talking a matter of degree here.

Now, I realize that an incumbant is allowed to take credit for everything that's been done in office while he was there, while the challenger is allowed to attack that same office-holder for everything that didn't happen. I'm not sure how a freshman legislator can be blamed for all of the delays in state governmenet, let alone the lack of action in Congress, but that's the way it sounds. Of course, that same freshman probably didn't lower the tax rate by himself, either.

Here's the problem with all of this: if someone is willing to distort the truth in order to get elected, what will they be like once they get in office?

Makes me want to watch PBS until the first Wednesday after the first Monday.

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