- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2004

Negative by nature

Turned off by the 2004 presidential campaign?

You might try turning off your television.

“If people believe campaigns are negative, it could well be due to the fact that the news coverage of political campaigns is more negative than the campaigns themselves,” reveals William Benoit, a leading expert on presidential campaigns and communications professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Mr. Benoit says as President Bush and Sen. John Kerry continue crisscrossing the country, and with one convention just ended and another one week away, the “media” have an abundance of political stories to cover.

Yet his new analysis shows that not only is press coverage more negative than the candidates’ actual messages, but the majority of reporting is on the “horse race” and not on the candidates’ policy or character.

Monitoring affront

Ralph Nader isn’t alone in the presidential contender wings — or so we now hear.

We wrote earlier this week that a group of congressmen, led by Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, are outraged that the Bush administration has invited an international team of election monitors to observe the 2004 presidential election. Those lawmakers now have an ally.

“It is an affront to our sovereignty and independence as a nation to allow so-called ‘international election monitors’ to observe or in any way interfere with our constitutionally mandated election process,” says Michael A. Peroutka, the Constitution Party candidate for president.

He says inviting members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe “to monitor our elections shows just how committed to an internationalist agenda are the candidates from the Democrat and Republican parties.”

Anti-war wing

There should be plenty of excitement outside Madison Square Garden during the upcoming Republican National Convention, as New York City gears up for anti-war protests unlike any seen in the Big Apple since the 1982 March for Nuclear Disarmament.

Activists with the Tucson Radical Activist Network and Food Not Bombs (some of their members say they were tagged by the FBI in recent weeks) are planning protests and “street theater” under the direction of Tucson, Ariz., resident Keith McHenry, co-founder of the latter bunch.

In fact, he is predicting one of the largest anti-war protests ever held in the United States.

It’s a party

Needless to say, people are easily bored by politics. So Republicans, as Democrats did in Boston, will jazz up their New York City convention with some first-class entertainment.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie says he’s booked several musical acts to take center stage at Madison Square Garden — country to classical, blues to punk (hey, it’s not your father’s party anymore).

“These … artists reflect the broad appeal of President George W. Bush,” he says, speaking of singer Michael W. Smith, famous for the hit song “Friends,” and Daniel Rodriquez, the former New York police officer nicknamed “America’s Tenor” for his rendition of “God Bless America” in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Then there’s Daize Shayne, model and ESPN anchor when not recording songs; Ron Silver, the popular actor who had stints on “The West Wing” and “Chicago Hope” (he was an outspoken liberal until throwing his support behind President Bush after 9/11); The Gatlin Brothers; Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of the ABC daytime talk show “The View”; country singer Sara Evans; and Dana Glover of “Shrek” soundtrack fame.

This just in

Those two giant Madagascar hissing roaches we wrote about recently — one designated “Bush” and the other “Kerry” — ran their six-foot long race at yesterday’s 12th annual Great New Jersey Cockroach Derby.

The winner was Kerry, which made an impressive dash to the finish line.

“We don’t claim that these races can predict the outcome in November,” says Len Douglen, executive director of the race-sponsoring New Jersey Pest Management Association, “but we have had about 80 percent accuracy in past years when we have raced roaches named for either presidential or gubernatorial candidates.”

Say cheese

“President Bush stopped for about 20 minutes at the Cady Cheese Factory and Shoppe … near Wilson, Wisconsin. He toured the factory briefly, urging his host, Dale Marcott, to tell him what they do. Their conversation was hard to hear, but essentially Marcott told the president they make cheese.”

— Official White House pool report from this week

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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