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Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2002 / 28 Tishrei, 5763

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Musings | The New Jersey Democratic Party has asked the New Jersey Supreme Court for permission to reprint all the state's ballots so the party can replace the name of disgraced incumbent Senator Robert Torricelli with that of former Senator Frank Lautenberg. Lautenberg retired from politics in a huff several years ago.

No one in New Jersey has cast a single vote for him this year. So should he appear on the ballot? It seems like a no-brainer. New Jersey Democrats nominated Bob Torricelli, knowing of his penchant for sleazy behavior.

Now they want him out of the race because voters are in on the secret, and seem inclined to elect an otherwise colorless, unknown Republican named Douglas Forrester. Get it? Replace a sure loser with a potential winner. Of course, the law doesn't permit last-minute substitutions for collapsing candidates which means the real question is: In New Jersey, in a tight election year, in a Supreme Court that includes two former Torricelli and Lauteberg campaign contributors what comes first, the law or politics?

I have mixed feelings about last week's political screaming in Washington. I mean, I love old fashioned eye-gouging, hair pulling, sucker-punching, full-contact politics. But, most of this controversy was unbearably silly.

Tom Daschle and other top Democrats assailed President Bush for sentiments he never expressed, and blasted Dick Cheney for comments he never made. Worse, the rhetoric became more heated as the allegations became more implausible. The worst touch: exploiting wounded war veterans by hauling them into the discussion.

There was a silver lining.

Liberal lion Edward Kennedy delivered a civil and principled speech Friday opposing the unilateral use of force against the government of Saddam Hussein. He offered serious arguments that deserve serious responses -- and he provided a grown up example for partisans on both sides . He also set the stage for what we really need -- a sober, reasoned and thorough debate about whether and why we ought to commit young men and women to a war thousands of miles away.

We've heard complaints in recent months that the Bush administration has used the war on terror as an excuse to trample on human rights and lay the foundation for a police state. Al Gore repeated the allegation, without supplying any examples, in a recent Bush-bashing appearance before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Yet, the former vice president has it backward. The administration has not been contemptuous of civil rights. It in some cases has been excessively solicitious. Consider this fact, recently reported by U-S News.

For nearly a year after the September 11th attacks, the U-S customs service refused to let federal investigators open letters and packages addressed to Osama bin Laden -- and actually ordered that the mail be forwarded to addresses in Afghanistan. Customs agents said the feds lacked probable cause to open the mail.

We are happy to report that Congress has sinced changed the law -- and investigators now say they may get access to some really good stuff.

Sometimes, political campaigns make decent people act and talk like perfect buffoons. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland, is one of the most pleasant and decent politicians you'll ever meet -- smart, competent and, unlike many in her profession, properly humble.

All that went out the window in a recent debate against her Republican opponent, Robert Ehrlich. She bashed Ehrlich before a predominantly black audience, complaining about his opposition to racial quotas. Yet, when it came to the rhetorical coup de grace, she uttered a line that while notable for its passion, was palpably crazy.

Here it is. "He opposes affirmative action based on race. Slavery was based on race. Lynching was based on race. Discrimination was based on race. Jim Crow was based on race. Affirmative action should be based on race." Which raises an interesting question: Why did she promote a policy that, by her own analysis and admission, is built on precisely the same basis as slavery, lynching, discrimination and Jim Crow?

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