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US Elections: Tight As A Tick On A Smelly Rat

Tight As A Tick On A Smelly Rat

Competition between broadcasters is a wonderful thing. NBC's local affiliate KRON4 just gave us live full coverage of Bush's interrogation by the press over the news that broke earlier this evening about a 1976 drunk driving charge. The story, KRON said, was broken by a Fox Network reporter in Maine where the offence occurred. I think NBC was trying to make up for giving the West Coast it's usual warmed-over East Coast "Today" show this morning, trumpeting the Middle East cease-fire about to start, whereas ABC was broadcasting live because of the breaking news of a bomb blast in a Jerusalem market.

My question is: who's been sitting on this driving under the influence story and for how long? How hard can it be to search court records to find misdemeanours of presidential candidates? For lands' sakes there are websites devoted to just that sort of thing where you can see countless celebrities' mugshots from actual police records. It's taken 24 years for someone to ferret this out when Bush (and his father) have been in the public limelight for most of them? Gimme a break.

Bush was wonderfully contrite as he answered the reporters' questions. He's never talked about it because he's always told his daughters not to drink and drive. He's never covered up the problem he had with drinking, which he gave up many years ago. He was drinking with John Newcome. Well, there you go! Who can resist the blandishments of charming sports-star Aussies when it comes to a couple of beers for the road? Hey, he got caught driving too slowly, for lands' sake.

Having witnessed the boundless capacity for forgiveness that the American public has for actual presidents so long as they say they're sorry, he's testing out the voters' capacity to forgive presidential hopefuls as well. And hey, it gives him the opportunity to wonder publicly just what sort of ratbag would bring this up just 4 days before the election. Could it be his main opponent, the Hooded Cobra? Mr Bush was careful not to say as much, but implication is almost as wonderful a thing as competition in an election campaign.

What we saw during that questioning by reporters was a man with a human flaw, yet mindful of his responsibilities as a father in trying to protect his daughters from a bad image of him and in teaching them not to drink and drive. A man who'd perhaps been led astray by the company he kept, but was trying not to do any damage once he got out on the road. Someone who'd since seen the error of his ways. And he has never pretended that he doesn't have a problem with alcohol. What's not to like about that?

Coincidentally the Gore campaign ads have just started running. Nowhere in them do you see Gore. They simply attack Bush's track record on air pollution, education, health insurance and other issues. I wonder at the logic of giving your opponent more screen time than yourself but it seems to be the norm here, judging by the ads that have been airing for a month now for all the down-ticket candidates.

Bush's campaign ads started a couple of weeks ago in California and I wonder at the logic of them too. Their main thrust is that you can't trust government. So why exactly would you want to be elected to be the Chief Executive of something that you hope to convince more than half your citizens not to trust? As the song says: O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Mr Bush. Jerusalem may turn out to be the least of your problems.

But I rather suspect not. Like the lady on the telly said last Sunday: the last time Congress was still sitting this close to an election was in WW2. "And we're not at war are we?" Oh, Cokie!

By the way, the latest Field poll for California - released tonight - has Gore at 47 percent, Bush on 40 and Nader on 4. Nader is unchanged from a month ago but Gore was 13 points ahead back then. Factor in the margin of error and the race still is "tight as a tick" as Mr Field informed us at his seminar last week.

Lea Barker
California
Thursday 2 November, PT

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