We have previously lamented the fact that too many candidates in this soon-to-end campaign cycle have provided too little information about what they intend to do if they win. This week we are forced to consider the dark side of that coin: that too many candidates are offering negative and often misleading information about their opponents.
We have learned -- "anonymously," mind you -- that Shelby County mayoral candidate A C Wharton (who is likely to be a mayor-elect by the time some of you read these words) has represented some undesirables in his law practice. Duh. That one, which seemingly ignored the very basis of the American legal system, was such a nonstarter that it promptly backfired on the campaign of Wharton's mayoral opponent, George Flinn.
We also learned that Flinn was, in the recent past, embroiled in legal difficulties with two women he'd had relationships with. Although a local TV station successfully argued, as of this writing, that the sealed agreements settling these suits should be opened prior to the election in the public interest, we confess to a queasy feeling reminiscent of the one we had back when Bill Clinton's opponents insisted on rubbing our noses in his private affairs.
At the level of county politics, we learned that a Democrat running for a clerkship was opposed to signs characterizing his GOP opponent as a Klansman. And how could he be blamed if, in denying his own responsibility, he ended up further publicizing the libel?
The race for the open 7th District congressional seat has been a real eye-shutter. We learned from two opponents of Republican David Kustoff about his claim of an A+ grade (instead of an A) for his 100 percent subservience to the views of the National Rifle Association. We should have been learning that Kustoff, more moderate in his views than his GOP opponents, actually believes that a congressman's duty is to perform positive service for his constituents, not just vote against things.
Similarly, we learned that 7th District candidates Mark Norris and Brent Taylor were against more things more uncompromisingly than anybody else when we should have been learning, say, that Norris was actually for the preservation of the current Social Security system. As for city councilman Taylor's boast that he has never voted for a tax increase -- meaning that he was on the 11-1 and 12-1 ends of a whole host of votes -- we rather agree with Republican eminence Lewis Donelson's take: Such candidates don't want to govern, "they just want to complain."
(Actually, we believe it can be argued that what such candidates are really saying is that government has only one legitimate function, and that is to give such naysayers and mudslingers a job at public expense.)
In looking at the trash-mouthing spectacle of the 7th District race, local attorney and political activist Jim Strickland theorized last week that when most everybody is slinging mud -- at least in a multicandidate race -- the voters will look for the one who isn't when they choose someone to actually push a button for.
Maybe so. In which case, the excesses of this campaign season could be self-correcting. But we won't hold our breath.