Democratic US Representative Tom Allen of Maine’s 1st District is being accused by editorial writers and other whack jobs of demeaning the political process. Allen’s crime, in the opinion of these esteemed moral arbiters, is his refusal to condemn his party’s employment of a “tracker,” which is pol-speak for somebody who follows a candidate around with a camera in hopes the office seeker will do something stupid enough to get the video endlessly recycled on YouTube.
In this case, the Dems’ tracker shadowed Republican US Senator Susan Collins, who’s up for re-election next year and faces a challenge from Allen. Collins’s campaign called the practice “intrusive” and one of the principal causes of America’s trade deficit with China. Or is that toys with lead paint?
No matter. It’s now clear Mainers will choose their next senator based on his or her stand on the vital issue of tracking. Before you cast your ballot, I hope you’ll consider these factors.
First, Collins makes a fool of herself in public every time she tries to explain her alleged compromise position on Iraq. Which, as near as I can figure it, is that we should get out of there, but only when the military says the time is right. That’s the same military that’s headed by Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. So, Collins’s position appears to be identical to Bush’s, which is that we’re going to stay in Iraq until shortly after the Tampa Bay Devil Rays win a World Series. How much video could an opposing campaign possibly need of somebody trying to make that sound plausible?
Second, although I didn’t realize it until now, I’ve been guilty of tracking. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, I was paid to follow candidates around on the campaign trail, hoping they’d pick their noses or have sex with an intern. Except my job description didn’t say “tracker.” It said “reporter.” And my employers were under the impression the First Amendment allowed me to tape any public statement those political hopefuls might make, and use it to embarrass them.
Finally, it would take considerably more than a flunky with a camera to demean a process as sordid as politics, which enjoys a degree of squalor that’s taken centuries to achieve. Credit for that wretched state belongs not to those who post candidate foibles on the Web, but to the unmitigated animosity some of our most distinguished citizens have traditionally displayed toward each other. A few examples:
“That he is too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation is equally beyond dispute.”
Democratic 1st District congressional candidate Mike Brennan on potential primary rival Ethan Strimling? Not hardly. That was John Adams discussing George Washington.
“It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish with contempt.”
The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s latest assessment of Democratic Governor John Baldacci? Sorry. That was Tom Paine paying his respects to the aforementioned Mr. Adams.
“His principles are elastic, and he is careless with the truth. He has no special knowledge of any subject, and he is a malignant, scheming sort of individual.”
An excerpt from Democratic state Senator John Martin’s official biography? As likely as that seems, it’s really labor leader John L. Lewis’s take on Harry Truman.