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Archive for Saturday, May 8, 2004

Shorter, less-intense campaign might benefit nation, voters

May 8, 2004

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Approximately six months from now, American voters will go to the polls to elect a president. Based on the intensity of the campaign to date, it is likely the public will be sick and tired of all the charges and countercharges, poll results and pledges from candidates about what they will do over the next four years if elected to the world's most powerful elective position.

How is the public to know whom to believe in this supercharged time of intense campaigning when the name of the game is to win? Forget campaign rules, just win! The public has learned in recent presidential campaigns that some candidates will make any kind of pledge or promise or even change positions on specific topics if it means winning votes but conveniently forget these pledges once they are elected. In such cases, it's likely the candidate never intended to follow through on the promise and was more intent on winning votes than honoring a pledge.

Unfortunately, the time frame for presidential campaigns seems to be growing. Along with this, today's information systems are such that the public is well aware of the issues facing the country, the record of the candidates and the position each candidate takes on these matters whether it is taxes, foreign policy, health care, abortion or any other major question or challenge facing the nation.

After several months of campaigning, along with the massive use of television ads to promote or fault candidates, the public probably already has enough information to decide whom they will support in the election. Another six months isn't likely to change many minds.

If this is, indeed, the case, it would seem the best thing President Bush could do would be to come clean with the public and say something like this:

"There are six months left before the election, and I am going to spend these six months doing what I think is in the best interest of the country, whether or not it will win or lose votes for me. I will not base my actions or policies on what will please Republicans or Democrats but rather on what I think is in the best interests of all citizens and this country.

"I want your support. I think I am the best-qualified candidate to be your president, but I am not going to say or make pledges that my pollsters tell me will win the most votes or public support.

"This job is too important to engage in double talk or try to fool or mislead the public. Sure, based on hindsight, there are things I wish I had done differently, and I've made some mistakes, but I didn't then, and don't now, have the luxury of hindsight. I have to do what I think is best and right, and this is how I intend to finish my term as your president. I hope I am able to do this in a manner that merits your confidence and support and that I will have the high honor to serve as president for another four years."

Bush might even say he intends to cut down on his campaigning, travel time and advertising assault. He could say he intends to spend more time in the White House and could even go so far as to say he intends to turn over unused money to charities.

This would be great, but what would be the response by his challenger? If Bush were to adopt a policy like the one outlined above, would it give Sen. John Kerry an even bigger chance of winning the election?

It should be remembered that in any political campaign, it always is easy for a challenger to fault the incumbent and, using hindsight, say how he would have handled some matter or issue better than the incumbent. This certainly is the case with Kerry and his campaign to oust Bush.

Chances are, the intense charge-and-countercharge campaigns will continue, but maybe some way will be devised in years to come to shorten the campaign period rather than having it last longer and longer, costing more and more.

While we are dreaming, wouldn't it be nice if campaign rules, financing rules, etc., actually had teeth so that those who violated the rules were punished with prison time and fines rather than receiving the current, meaningless slaps on the wrist, which do nothing to discourage future violations?

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