Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2004/ 30 Tishrei, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Streaking toward the silly season | The debates are past at last, and we can get down to the serious campaigning. The silly season is hard upon us.

John Kerry has set the bar high, with his talk of "global tests" and outsourcing presidential responsibility to France and Belgium.

But sometimes the silly verges into the cruel, such as Monsieur Kerry's gratuitous comment on the sexual preferences of the vice president's daughter. (Monsieur Kerry obviously did not read the bold print in the Manual for the Candidate, on Page 124: "Never, ever, under any circumstances, speculate on the sex lives of respectable women.")

But the giggly and silly afflicts candidates of both parties all the way to the bottom of the down ballot.

Daniel Mongiardo, the Democratic opponent of Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, is in a pother (an old Massachusetts word for "choking cloud of steam") because Mr. Bunning suggested that he looks like one of Saddam Hussein's late sons. The senator said he only said that because Mr. Mongiardo was spreading tales that the senator's health is failing. Mr. Bunning apologized and offered letters from two doctors testifying to his "excellent health."

The senator did not say whether his opponent looks like Uday or Qusai. Popular opinion in Kentucky is said to be split. Voters in Western Kentucky generally think Mr. Mongiardo resembles Uday, voters in the eastern counties think Qusai. Mr. Mongiardo says only that the senator's conduct was "unbecoming of a United States senator," and worse, "unbecoming of a Kentucky gentleman."

The two men debated only once, and voters won't have another opportunity to judge for themselves whether the senator looks buff enough for re-election or whether Mr. Mongiardo is a dead ringer for Uday or a carbon copy of Qusai. Polls suggest that the senator has higher name recognition and the Democratic candidate has higher face recognition.

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Out in Oregon, where goodness and mercy are decreed by state law, Rep. David Wu, a Democrat, is having to explain 28 years later why he asked a coed at Stanford for something more than a chaste goodnight kiss. You might think that a man named Wu would know how to woo, but the Portland Oregonian, a newspaper so prim and delicate that it refuses to call the Washington Redskins the Washington Redskins, assigned a crack investigative team to get to the bottom of what happened on a lovers' lane on a balmy night in Palo Alto in 1976. The newspaper uncovered a woman who said that young Mr. Wu, then 21, with whom she had ended a romance earlier, tried to get her to "have sex." She declined, but what happened that night is now seared in the memory of the editors of the Oregonian, if not necessarily in the memories of their readers.

"Whether it was an amorous [relationship] or whether what happened was consensual," a former "patrol commander" at Stanford told the newspaper, "I never was able to determine because the guy basically clammed up after that and wouldn't talk" — perhaps because he was what in Kentucky is called a "gentleman."

Races in Texas are naturally racier. "The gloves," reports the Associated Press, "have come off in the tight election race between two Texas congressmen." And once upon a time, apparently, that was not all.

Rep. Martin Frost, a Democratic fixture in the House, is holding Rep. Pete Sessions, his Republican opponent, to a standard of naked truth. The race is particularly spirited because redistricting has forced the two incumbents to run against each other.

The goods Mr. Frost has on (or more to the point, off) Mr. Sessions is that when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Southwest Texas State College he bared his bottom, along with 300 other bottoms, in a streak across campus. The streakers of Southwest State were trying to break into the Guinness Book of Records, hoping to snap the mark held by another school.

Mr. Sessions is properly apologetic. "He recognizes it as an immature action of an 18-year-old college freshman," a spokesman explained. But that's not good enough for Mr. Frost. "Pete Sessions exposed himself to children and strangers."

Mr. Sessions left Southwest State, no doubt in shame for having let down the old school (the record was left for other bottoms to break), and graduated the next year elsewhere — fully clothed, insofar as the record shows, and the republic survived.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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