Zaleski: Not much 'North Dakota nice' out there
The 2010 political season is at full throttle. Stunts, spins and out-and-out lies - the routine in politics - are ripping around campaign racetracks. Well-funded partisan hit squads, some attached to campaigns and some to independent special-inte...
The 2010 political season is at full throttle. Stunts, spins and out-and-out lies - the routine in politics - are ripping around campaign racetracks. Well-funded partisan hit squads, some attached to campaigns and some to independent special-interest groups, are proving the proposition that negative advertising no longer is the exception in politics. It's become the ubiquitous norm because it works.
Even as North Dakotans like to think of themselves as above such sleaze, the politicians who represent them and seek to represent them are neck deep in the mud. Behind the façade of "North Dakota nice" lurk campaign operatives who know that "nice" does not win elections.
In the race for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat, both sides are guilty of character assassination and mischaracterization of their opponent's policy positions.
Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy's minions are less than subtle in alleging that Republican Rick Berg is lying about his stance on Social Security privatization and drilling for oil and gas in national parks. For his part, Berg is approving campaign ads that paint Pomeroy as out of touch with "the North Dakota way."
Truth is hard to find in either camp.
When asked (by me) at a recent Forum Editorial Board meeting, Berg was quick and clear: He favored drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and jackpotting the revenue to shore up Social Security. When pressed about drilling in national parks (specifically, Theodore Roosevelt National Park), he did not back away from his proposal. However, when Berg and his campaign people realized he'd stepped with both feet into a buffalo pie, he "clarified" his words, saying he would never drill inside the parks but rather outside with horizontal drilling technology. Fair enough. Even Pomeroy's toadies should understand that clarification is allowed.
Berg's attempt to portray Pomeroy as outside "the North Dakota way" (whatever that is), is gutter swill because it does not go to issues but rather attempts to taint the nine-term congressman as less than a North Dakotan. The people who elected and re-elected Pomeroy since his public life began at the Legislature in 1980 might disagree. Few members of Congress spend more time at home than Pomeroy. The fact of his service in Washington in no way diminishes his identity as a son of Valley City. To suggest otherwise is an insult that further pollutes an already dirty campaign. Berg should know better.
It's early. The House race is shaping up to be one of those nail-biters that go down in the history books. It will get nastier and uglier before Nov. 2. So, if you're looking for "North Dakota nice," don't count on Pomeroy or Berg.
Forget politics and go to a country church lutefisk supper. But don't talk politics because this year's campaigns smell worse than the entree.
Contract Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at 701) 241-5521.