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Jewish World Review August 26, 2004 / 9 Elul, 5764

Neil Steinberg

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If our national conversation gets a little ugly, so be it | Type "George Bush is evil'' into Google and a number of links to sophisticated Web pages pop up, including one laboriously crafted site labeled "Nice Guy ... or the Devil's Spawn?'' that uses numerology, Bible study and psychological analysis to argue that Bush is the anti-Christ.

Type in "John Kerry is evil'' into the search engine and you get a variety of less slickly produced but perhaps more heartfelt offerings, including an America Online journal entitled "I despise John Kerry.'' You also get, surprisingly, quite a few pro-Kerry sites, including "Is John Kerry an Evil Alien Overlord?'', which points out the resemblance between Kerry and a forgotten B-movie ghoul before arriving at the unexpected conclusion, "I'm not sure which bothers me more: that John Kerry resembles an Evil Alien Overlord — or that I'd still rather vote for him than GWB.''

This is how it should be. We have a First Amendment, and believe in the right to express opinions, no matter how lunatic.

Which is what makes the ongoing ruckus over so-called 527s — independent advocacy groups designed to thwart campaign finance laws — so insane. Money Always Finds a Way, and while it's probably a good idea to prevent anonymous donors from handing bags of cash to candidates, otherwise, we need to get the law away from political debate and let the mud fly. We should get rid of these laws.

Will the presidential elections turn into even more of a circus of wild charges staged by every nutbag with access to a checkbook? Yes. Is that preferable to the current complex sham? Of course. If we live in a society where TV can run endless commercials pimping Botox, I don't see how we can argue against groups expressing political agendas, no matter how crazed and wrong.

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JWR contributor Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. His latest book is Don't Give Up the Ship: Finding My Father While Lost at Sea . Comment by clicking here.

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