Political speak is quite confusing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Political advertising was almost bearable before the primary election.

Most featured the candidates emphasizing their accomplishments and how much they understand the voters' concerns.

We even found out U.S. Senate candidate Norm Coleman knows the difference between a rock and a potato.

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But with little more than a month left until the general election, political campaigning has gotten ugly.

Their advertising has also turned from mostly positive to all-out attacks.

One of the most crucial races in Minnesota is, of course, for U.S. Senate.

No matter who you think you'll vote for Nov. 5, the ads certainly aren't making anyone's stance on anything very clear.

Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor, had said in a recent advertisement that he is against privatization of Social Security.

Well, kinda.

He doesn't support investing all of it in the stock market, but he does support allowing individuals 50 and under to choose to invest a two of the 13 cents per dollar they earn that's withheld for social security.

Of course U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone's ad criticizing Coleman's ad doesn't make those details clear either. It says Coleman has supported privatization, but doesn't explain what that really means to voters.

So, really, neither candidate is being wholly truthful.

But perhaps what started this negative campaigning is the ad sponsored by the Republican Party of Minnesota. It reminds us that Wellstone would serve only two terms and that he voted to raise taxes more than 200 times.

The ad concludes "Tell Paul Wellstone, 'It's wrong to raise taxes. Even worse to break our trust.'"

The ad does remind us of an issue that -- surprisingly -- hasn't been brought up very often yet: Wellstone said he only would serve for two terms.

Term limits were a pretty big issue for Wellstone in years past. Funny, how he hasn't mentioned them since, except his statement earlier this year that he just feels there's more he could do in Washington.

But raising taxes is wrong all of the time? Please.

Sometimes those tax increases really do help taxpayers. The ad cannot claim that every tax hike is wrong. I'm sure the party would feel differently about increased spending on national defense.

Wouldn't the Republican Party's money be better spent promoting its own endorsed candidate? What does Coleman think of term limits and tax increases? About welfare and defense spending?

It makes me wonder how much of an effect these ads really have on voters.

Voters know when a candidate talks in an ad, he or she is going to gloss over some things. We also know that when they attack a candidate, they will word it in such a way that makes the opponent looks as unfit as possible.

So what's the point?

One could argue that the ads make voters more aware of the upcoming election.

I doubt it. If you vote, you know it's coming up. If you don't, silly attack ads aren't going to make you head to the polls.

There's no way I would vote for a candidate based off an advertisement paid for by a biased sponsor. And I think a lot of people would agree.

So if political candidates are going to advertise, they should avoid attacking the other candidate.

Otherwise, by Nov. 5, neither candidate looks very appealing.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com