A civil war, not a civil campaign - Bob Paslay

The words were not out of John Kerry's mouth announcing his choice for vice president when the attack machine began to try to dismantle North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Business fired a volley because as a trial lawyer he won some big settlements for clients. Republicans from George Bush himself all the way down began questioning his ability, painting him with the "liberal" paintbrush and saying he was not qualified to be president if something happened to John Kerry.

The difference between Edwards and Dick Cheney is that Cheney is qualified to be president if something happened to the president, Bush said.

Lord, please help me to get through the next several months of this long, drawn-out, mean-spirited, tiring presidential election.

Civility everywhere is dying and dying fast, and I lament it. It is not confined to one party or one candidate, either local or national. It is everywhere.

What happened to the day when a person said, "Yes, you have a fine candidate, but we have a better candidate."

Now you have to drag down your opponent immediately, hoping to imply he or she is a child molester, dog-beater, embezzler, mother-hating, communist, filthy scum-sucking no-good. There is nothing good about this opponent. He or she is not worthy to breathe America's air. He is a homo sapien and his sister is a thespian.

I know I am whistling in the dark, just as I am longing for the day when people keep their phone conversations away from me, when drivers show civility, when teens stop using foul language at the mall.

But I am not going to stop longing for a return to civility and courtesy.

The people of North Carolina are not ultra-pinko communists and they elected Edwards to represent them in the U.S. Senate for six years. They are normal, red-blooded Americans who love the flag and the country and who long for a better life for their kids. Some listen to classical music, some country. Some like reality TV and some like public television. Some drive trucks and some drive BMWs.

So to imply that the man they elected to the Senate is not worthy to be president is an insult to them. It is also an insult to all of us to have such mean-spirited, win-at-all-costs attack machines firing at us.

My native South Carolinian Lee Atwater, an interesting politician junky, invented or at least perfected this new way of campaigning. Don't bring up your candidate's positives. Pull down the opponent. Raise doubts, plant hints that the opponent is lousy.

I know many Americans say they want to hear positive things about their candidate and not negatives about the opponent, that they want meaningful dialogue. They say this and then buy into this multimillion-dollar, 30-second commercial attack way of campaigning.

A combination of being an English major in college and a journalist, along with having reasonable parents and being raised in the South, have made me dislike one-sided zealots who have no use for you if you don't agree with them.

I like to hear meaningful discussions of issues. I think probably there are enough differences between the presidential candidates on issues that you could pick one over the others based on the real facts. No distortions, no trickery commercials, no dragging down the other guy into the mud.

American presidential campaigns last too long and they are too

costly. By the time November comes I am going to be ready to vote for anyone but the people running.

Again, I say I know I am like the old codger who sits on the porch and longs for the good-ole days. I know deep down that negative politics are here to stay, that presidential campaigns will get longer and meaner and more costly. Fewer Americans will want to sit around and discuss things calmly and more will want to shout you down and paint you with one- or two-word slogans.

I am tired of hearing about battleground states. I angered some people when I said in a democracy the one who gets the most votes should be elected. Last presidential election it didn't happen. All signs point to another close election and the possibility this will happen again. How many times will the second-place vote-getter being elected president have to occur before we go to direct election of presidents. This would abolish battleground states because my vote would count as much as theirs.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Extension 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.