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Jewish World Review April 11, 2004 / 21 Nissan 5764

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports


Which candidate wanted to raise gas tax? Or maybe political commercials are just too short

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Thank Heaven we have the Republican National Committee out there to point out the evil fuel tax-increasing thoughts of our politicians from over a decade ago. I mean, as if we're not now paying through the nose, do we want someone running the White House whose proposals and preoccupations might lead to even high fuel prices?

That is why we should give kudos to RNC chairman Ed Gillespie and the rest of the Bush-Cheney re-election team for pointing out that we cannot afford a candidate who would propose such ill-advised, anti-American, car-driving legislation. We can't afford the tax. We can't afford this candidate. We cannot afford Dick Cheney?

Hu-u-u-h?

Do my eyes deceive me? Is this some sort of liberal conspiracy; a DNC corrupt machination to subvert the truth much as they always do on CNN, home to Bob Novak, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs and other Kool-Aid soldiers of Terry McAuliffe? Is this just another "Karl Rove told Republicans to use the war as a campaign issue "which he actually did in 2002, distortion that those nit-pickers on the left try to throw in our faces when they try to politicize the war?

I thought it was John Kerry who wanted to raise fuel taxes. Wasn't that what the RNC ad said? Oh.. I see. He spoke about it but neither proposed it on the Senate floor nor ever voted on any such proposal. He thought about it.

So, if the actual ad, the one the RNC did hammering Kerry's gas-tax thoughts, is legitimate, that means we're now in for a rash of political commercials based on a candidate's musings. Not a bad idea, but then again, if we were judged on our thoughts, we'd all be in jail for murder.

But what of the real stuff? The actions literally taken, not only thought about?

In October 1986, Wyoming congressman Dick Cheney, who I think ended up near 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, introduced legislation to create a new fuel import tax that would have caused the price of oil, and ultimately the price of gasoline at the pump, to skyrocket billions of dollars. If you read that last sentence closely enough, you might have noticed that Cheney didn't "think" about raising the price. Or "talk" about it. He INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO INCREASE THE PRICE OF FUEL to the American public.

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Hey, I thought Democrats were the ones in love with raising taxes. Wait a minute. That's was raising the deficit. No, wait... I digress.

At the time, Cheney said, "Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States." Man, that could become one helluva soundbite for some campaign (wink-wink).

Other lawmakers, criticized the Cheney plan as "snake oil" that would place hundreds of thousands of Americans in the unemployment lines.

So, is the RNC commercial ripping into Cheney? Yeah, right.

Instead, the Bush campaign has attacked Kerry for intimating that he favors higher gas prices.

"Some people have wacky ideas like taxing gasoline more so people drive less," says the Bush commercial. "That's John Kerry," referring to 1993 when Kerry talked about a 50-cent gas tax increase that he never even introduced or even voted for.

Now a lot of people might question why the RNC would attack Kerry for something he thought about yet not mention Cheney's bona fide introduction of the gas tax increase legislation.

The answer is simple. There's not enough time. As any decent commercial editor will tell you, at best you have sixty seconds to get out your central idea. Barely enough time to distort Kerry's record. With so little wiggle room, how do you expect the Bush campaign to fit in all the facts; facts that would only cripple their message? That wouldn't be very smart, would it? The Bush campaign may not have the time to put together an accurate commercial, but they're not stupid.

Most important, we must have some empathy for the people who are putting together these campaign commercials. They are under tremendous pressure and sometimes the truth must become a casualty. So it is, that if you can't tell the truth, say whatever the people you're working for want you to say. It may not be ethical, but it is pays the rent. Ask Dick Morris.

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JWR contributor Steve Young, is an award-winning television writer, author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success" . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Steve Young