Back when I was much younger and the world hadn't heard of "political correctness," Southern political aficionados had a colorful and offensive name for ads like the Republicans are running against the Democratic candidate in the Omaha-area congressional race.
I won't repeat that description here, though in its ugliness it gets a whole lot closer to the truth of what national Republicans are doing to bolster the electoral chances of Lee Terry, the underachieving congressman for Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District. "Race baiting" is just too sanitary a term, frankly.
Many terms today are too sanitary for what passes for "politics" and governance in the United States today.
The congressman's political sliminess is nonetheless undeterred by our lack of politically correct nomenclature to describe it. The other day, this campaign ad from the Terry campaign itself was waiting in our mailbox:
IN A BID for plausible deniability on the TV ad, no doubt, Terry will only stoop to sweeping "crook baiting" in the attacks against Brad Ashford that run under his own name. Not, of course, that he's unhappy about the National Republican Campaign Committee's television ad featuring serial killer Nikko Jenkins.
When asked about the racist NRCC hit job on Ashford, Terry's campaign manager said the congressman's camp had no intention of asking the national party to lay off the race baiting.
“It’s a factual ad, and it still raises the legitimate issue that Brad Ashford by both action and inaction in the Legislature endangers Nebraskans by not reforming the good time law,’’ Kent Grisham told the Omaha World-Herald.
What Team Terry won't tell us is that nothing can pass in the officially non-partisan Nebraska Legislature, including the "good time" law, without a fair number of GOP votes in this heavily Republican state. The World-Herald, in an editorial blasting the TV ad, pointed out what shouldn't need to be pointed out to any sentient being in the Cornhusker State:
Terry’s fellow Republicans are the majority in the officially nonpartisan Legislature and have been for a long time. Gov. Dave Heineman, who has held office for nearly 10 years, is a Republican. If the good-time law needed changing, why didn’t they act sooner? At best, this is a bipartisan failure.WELL freakin' duh!
Of course, Terry, veteran congresstroll that he is, has not only a Plan B -- crook baiting -- but a Plan C as well . . . terrorist baiting.
IF YOU WANT to know how stupid Americans are -- or at least how stupid Lee Terry thinks his constituents are -- here's your answer. At the end of the third quarter, it's Reality 49, Satire 3.
Our democracy is in a bad way, and I'm not feeling so good myself amid another bad joke of an election cycle.
Lee Atwater, architect of George H.W. Bush's dismantling of Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988 -- the campaign that gave us the infamous Willie Horton ad -- repented of what he had done and the mindset that made him do it before he died of cancer in 1991.
"In 1988," Mr. Atwater said, "fighting Dukakis, I said that I 'would strip the bark off the little bastard' and 'make Willie Horton his running mate.' I am sorry for both statements: the first for its naked cruelty, the second because it makes me sound racist, which I am not." Reputation as 'Ugly Campaigner'THE PROSPECT of death made Lee Atwater a better man. In facing death, he found grace.
Since being stricken last year, the 39-year-old Mr. Atwater has apologized on several occasions for many of the campaign tactics he once employed and for which he was criticized. But rarely has he spoken in such detail or with such candor as in the interview for the first-person Life article.
"In part because of our successful manipulation of his campaign themes, George Bush won handily," Mr. Atwater said. He conceded that throughout his political career "a reputation as a fierce and ugly campaigner has dogged me."
"While I didn't invent negative politics," he said, "I am one of its most ardent practitioners."
When the Republican National Committee meets in Washington on Jan. 25, it will ratify Mr. Bush's choice of Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter to become the new party chairman. Mr. Atwater will receive the title of general chairman.
The Life article is accompanied by photographs that show Mr. Atwater today, his face swollen by steroids and framed by dark, curly hair. They are a stark contrast to earlier pictures of him, lean, grinning and jogging with Mr. Bush. 'I Was Scared'
In the article, Mr. Atwater also talked about the moment last March 5 when he was speaking at a fund-raising breakfast for Senator Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas.
"I felt my left foot start to shake uncontrollably," he said. "In seconds the twitch had moved into my leg and up the left side of my body. I was scared. I stopped speaking, grabbed at my side with one hand and clutched the podium with the other."
Mr. Atwater was rushed to the hospital and within days doctors determined that he was suffering from a tumor on the right side of his brain. His battle with cancer has continued unabated since that diagnosis.
Mr. Atwater also described the change in his relationship with Ronald H. Brown, the Democratic national chairman.
"After the election, when I would run into Ron Brown, I would say hello and then pass him off to one of my aides," he said. "I actually thought that talking to him would make me appear vulnerable.
"Since my illness, Ron has been enormously kind -- he sent a baby present to Sally T.," Mr. Atwater's third child, who was born only weeks after he was stricken. "He writes and calls regularly -- and I have learned a lesson: Politics and human relationships are separate. I may disagree with Ron Brown's message, but I can love him as a man."
Some people, though, never learn. Twenty-three years later, the real prospect of political death has made Lee Terry into a loathsome little hack, one unworthy of the office he occupies and unworthy of Nebraskans' trust.
Repent, Lee. Your political end, God willing, is near.