A few things we'd prefer that the candidates not do

June 04, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

At last week's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the front runner for the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nomination, told Democrats they should be ready for some criticism from the Republicans.

"We're running against a Republican who has the nerve to say we don't know what we're doing," Townsend said.

Just what that meant is unclear. Of course U.S. Rep. Robert Ehrlich believes he can do it better. Otherwise why would be run?

At that point we got to thinking about some recent campaigns and what left us unsatisfied, in many cases, and about what we'd like to see done better in 2002.

The first and most irritating feature of recent campaigns has been some candidates' claim that looking at their records is somehow negative campaigning. That's wrong. What a candidate did yesterday is relevant to what they'll do tomorrow and fair game, provided it's not an account of their misbehavior in kindergarten.


The second is the tendency of some candidates to associate their opponents with the worst members of their foes' political parties. Not every Democrat is Bill Clinton, nor every Republican Richard Nixon.

Townsend isn't responsible for everything that happened in Parris Glendening's adminstration, nor is Ehrlich culpable for everything the Republican-controlled U.S. House did. However, if either says now they disagreed with what happened then, they do need to explain why they weren't more vocal about it.

Finally, we want proposed solutions for the candidates. We have seen so many candidates coast through debates and public appearances by expressing concern and saying that "something must be done" about this or that.

Actors can express concern; what we want from our elected officials is some sense that they have a plan to fix what's broken. And what we want from the campaigns is a test of how the candidates will behave under fire. Those who shrink from the debate now aren't likely to suddenly develop courage when they take office.

The Herald-Mail Articles