Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias When you grow up with four brothers, you quickly learn to play the blame game.

Eventually, your mother (who has the uncanny ability to ask tough, hard-nosed questions just like Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press,) will soon put you on the hot seat.

"Who ate all the chocolate chip cookies I baked for the church supper?"

"Who tracked in all the mud after I scrubbed the kitchen floor?"

"Which one of you has the poor aim in the bathroom?"

You get the idea.

Well, for weeks now, I've been wishing my mother would give our senior Senator a call and ask him (in that unique tone of hers) a simple question.

"Tom, why do you and other people say in your campaign ads that you (and they) are growing tired of the negative ads that John Thune is running?"

Turns out I don't have to bug Mom about this. Russert asked Daschle a very similar question Sunday (although, unlike my mother, his method didn't have the power to pin your shoulders to the back of your chair).

You see, I've been curious about this, because advertisements that have been critical of Daschle have been produced and paid for by the Republican Central Committee, or something like that, and a few other outside groups.

The latest round of campaign "reform" (choke back the laughter) approved by Congress requires candidates to become Dweeb Boy (or Girl) from the Planet Duh in their TV ads, and say "I approve of this message." Which is sort of obvious.

So far, I haven't heard Thune say those words at the beginning, middle or end of any of the so-called Daschle "attack" ads.

There's a good reason for that. They aren't Thune's ads.

But Daschle keeps saying they are.

So, Russert, sensing that my mother was about to spring into action, asked Daschle about it.

Daschle claims Thune is responsible for the ads from outside groups, because he (Thune) could ask them to stop running the ads, but he (Thune) hasn't, so they won't (stop, that is).

I'll pause a minute while you scratch your head.

I guess if we use a little extrapolation, eventually we could conclude that Thune isn't the only one responsible.

The three TV stations in Sioux Falls are responsible, too. Surely they must know the ads are negative. But day after day, night after night, they run them anyway.

Maybe we're responsible, too. Flip a couple pages in this edition, and you'll find an ad that's, well, not designed to be flattering of Daschle.

But wait! This ad, criticizing Daschle's votes on gas taxes, doesn't come from an outside group.

It comes from Thune.

Thank goodness. We're not on the hook for THAT one.

I mentioned earlier how, when you grow up in a rather boisterous household like I did, you master the blame game well.

"Who tracked in the mud?"

"Jeff did!"

"Who ate the cookies?"

"Mike did!"

"Who can't hit the target in the bathroom?"

"That's gotta be Bill."

"Whose been running the critical ads?"

"Why, it's got to be John Thune."

Naturally, this didn't work with my mother. You see, she was also a master � at detecting those times when one of her sons was not really telling the truth.

That's why I wish that, instead of Russert, Thune and Daschle would sit down across the kitchen table from Mom.

She would advise Thune to ask the outside groups to knock it off.

And she would tell Daschle to at least wait until Thune actually runs a negative ad before saying he does.

Otherwise, no cookies.

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