Richard Borreca

On Politics


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Attack ads bloody
the political water

When Dickie Wong, the canny former Senate president, wanted to run for governor, he learned a new lesson about politics: If politics is a blood sport, then running for governor is nothing but 12 months of raw meat.

"It is like the NFL on Sunday," Wong said. "You can have two guys across the line from each other who are good friends, but when the whistle blows they will try to kill each other."

The difference between professional football and politics, however, is that while the NFL propaganda machine glorifies bone-crunching tackles and vicious sacks, politicians are willing to do almost anything to win, while sincerely offering concern only for strong moral values and integrity.

There's nothing new about attack ads, negative campaigning or last-minute political smears, but this year the political wizards running the campaigns are cutting it a little close.

For instance, Republicans are protesting a series of ads designed by the Democratic Party to make voters think Republicans are in bed with Big Oil and Democrats will protect consumers from high gas prices.

The ads are similar to Democratic ads run in other states, according to GOP campaign consultants, and that isn't surprising because the Hawaii Democrats this year are being helped by a crew of mainland political professionals.

"The ads are cookie-cutter ads. I've seen them in New Jersey and in California, it is a common approach," Jill Frierson, GOP consultant said.

The Democrats, however, clumsily produced ads attacking GOP candidates who either turned down oil money, voted for gas-price caps and against the oil companies, or were not even in the Legislature.

The ads say oil companies have given thousands of dollars to the Republican candidates and the GOP, while forgetting that those same oil companies have been dumping plenty of money into Democratic checking accounts.

On Kauai, Rep. Mina Morita, a Democrat who has never meet a tree she didn't want to hug and who walked the bottle bill through the Legislature, got $500 from Tesoro Oil, so there must be a way to accept money without becoming a handmaiden of the oil barons.

The political experts and out-of-state helpers are hoping the attack ads will turn off voters, but there is always a chance they will backfire.

In politics, being set up for a false crack like this either gives the undecided voter a reason to go with the person who appears less evil, or it confuses voters and they go for the incumbent.

The larger question of what smear campaigns do to the heart and soul of a political party is best left for those who can look themselves in the mirror on the day after the election.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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