Clean-campaign pledge: Can W.Va. parties agree?

June 08, 2004

After all the accusations and invective that Jim Humphreys and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito tossed at each other while running for a West Virginia Congressional seat, a clean, issued-oriented campaign would be welcome in the Mountain State.

That's what Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Manchin proposed last week in a letter to his Republican counterpart, Monty Warner.

If both parties can pull it off, it would be a good thing, but mud-slinging is so prevalent in campaigns today because it's effective. Citizens who are unfamiliar with the complications of state policy can easily latch on to a sound bite that makes its target sound like the devil, or something close.

Under Manchin's plan, both candidates would pledge that their campaign advertising would include "their positive vision for the future of West Virginia."

Under the proposed "gentlemen's agreement," if a campaign ad mentions an opponent, it must be done by the candidate himself, instead of by an announcer or other spokesperson.


But if an opponent is mentioned by one candidate, the other would be free to respond.

Finally, under the agreement, candidates would also ask their supporters not to launch their own negative attacks.

Republican Warner told The Associated Press that the pact would not be a debate refereed by the media, but something in which the two candidates and the citizens of the state agree on "what a clean campaign ought to be."

In our view, campaign statements can be tough, provided they're specific. For example, Warner told the state Republican convention on Saturday that Manchin is a career politician of "appeasement" who can't deal with a political culture of corruption and cronyism.

What does that mean? Who has Manchin appeased, and how did his alleged actions harm the state and its citizens?

We would say the same if Manchin had made a similar statement. Manchin and Warner say they're serious about having a campaign that will "'make all West Virginians proud."

Howver, doing that means not only providing the positive vision Manchin talked about, but also offering more than vague statements about why an opponent isn't up to the job.

War and inconvenience

On Sunday, an Amtrak train on its way to Washington, D.C., was stopped and searched in Cumberland, Md., after a member of the U.S. military said that two passengers were acting in a suspicious manner.

The train - and the two men - were searched, while the passengers were bused to the Nation's Capital. Nothing turned up, and the men were released. It is the sort of activity that may become more common in the months and years ahead, as the war on terrorism continues.

Some passengers were upset that they'd missed connecting trains as a result of the delay. And some complained that they'd been told at first that the train was having mechanical trouble.

But if the train hadn't been searched and something had happened, a missed connection would have been the least of the passengers' worries. And as for what passengers were told, if the two men on board had been terrorists, tipping them off to a bob search might have caused them to blow up any device immediately.

This is not something happening only in Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel. It has happened here once, on Sept. 11, 2001, and without the vigilance of the people who run the nation's transportation systems, it could happen again.

Then the cry would be "Why didn't you do something?" Well, "something" is what was done on the train in Cumberland on Sunday. Bomb-sniffing dogs searched much of the train and determined there was no cause for alarm.

Was it a false alarm? Yes, but isn't it better to be vigilant about security rather than too lax?

We vote in favor of vigilance. We also favor telling citizens that it's not just American soldiers who are fighting terrorism. It's also possible that something will happen here at home. If preventing that "something" means a little inconvenience, well, sometimes war is inconvenient.

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