News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, JULY 17, 2006


Look beyond rhetoric, ads when deciding how to vote

Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh made Lucy Baxley an offer that she can and, no doubt, will refuse.

Ms. Cavanaugh, chair of the Alabama Republican Party, said Friday that she'll pay for Howard Dean's plane ticket if he'll come to Alabama and campaign for Ms. Baxley for governor.

That's the kind of offer one makes with a wink (or maybe a twinkle). Ms. Baxley, who is the Democratic nominee running against Republican incumbent Bob Riley in November, probably will stay away from the controversial Mr. Dean. He's chairman of the national Democratic Party and is a favorite target of Alabama politicians who consider "liberal" a dirty word.

Mr. Dean, by most definitions, is indeed a liberal. It's hard to know what Ms. Baxley stands for, but you couldn't call her a liberal activist because she's no activist of any kind.

Allow us to suggest, though, that the ideology of the national Democratic Party means little in terms of the philosophies of most Alabama Democrats. Many of them would find little in common with Howard Dean and a lot in common with the values that Republican candidates profess (Christian, conservative, anti-tax, law and order, etc.).

Still, some Republican runoff candidates are trying to damage their opponents by pointing out their past associations with Democrats. They ignore the facts that most politically aware Alabamians of a certain age were once Democrats, and that the two-party system still is not viable in all localities.

Guilt-by-association is not an especially helpful issue for voters who want to make intelligent choices in this year's elections, including Tuesday's runoffs — unless you want to consider who's helping a candidate behind the scenes and giving him money.

Character, experience, past performance, competence, and philosophy of government are relevant, but campaign rhetoric often ignores them. You have to look beyond rhetoric and campaign ads to get information about these issues.

A talk-radio caller complained recently that some candidates are not advertising, so he cannot find out what they stand for. Someone should tell him that much useful information about candidates is available, and he could find it by reading the newspapers, surfing the Internet, attending meetings and speaking with knowledgeable people.

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