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(Much has happened but this column is a week old. The deal with the newspaper syndicator requires it)

       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, AUG. 7, 2012
       With a presidential candidate who constantly puts his foot in his mouth -- when he can shove it past the silver spoon -- and congressional candidates who demonstrate that the party is controlled by tea-party extremists, the Republicans should be in what George Bush the First called “deep doo-doo.” However, they are being kept afloat by the Democrats.
       Obviously, the Republicans are being helped along by the super-wealthy, who are willing to pay a little of their fortunes to keep their licenses to steal. It provides the GOP a huge advantage having all that money to finance a campaign of distortion and fearmongering.
       But the Democrats might be catching on. In the dirty pool competition, the party’s Senate leader, Harry Reid, is going for the tarnished gold. Without any evidence, Reid cites an alleged conversation with a “Bain Capital investor,” who claims that Mitt Romney failed to pay taxes for 10 years, and contends that’s why Romney won’t make his returns public.
       Who is this person? We have no way to know, since Reid ain’t saying, raising the possibility he is making up the whole thing. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has gone bananas, calling Sen. Reid a “dirty liar.” That’s because Reid’s comments have gotten traction. Romney felt compelled to respond: “Let me say categorically, I have paid taxes every year,” he insisted, “lots of taxes.” He demanded proof and that Reid “put up or shut up.” But he won’t budge off his refusal to put up his own tax returns, so Democrats aren’t about to shut up.
       Is this a dirty lie? Possibly. A justifiable cheap shot? Well, that’s a tougher one. It’s plausible this is a Harry Reid con to exploit the widespread impression of Romney as a tax evader. That would plunge the Senate majority leader into the political gutter. He’d certainly have plenty of company as he wallows around.


       This would be the same big-lie game played by the many Republicans who continue to slime us with “Birther” muck and the contemptible charge that Barack Obama is really a Muslim. The latter is particular low-life nastiness -- not only because it is untrue, but for how it panders to the religious bigotry of so many Americans. So maybe Harry Reid positioning himself on the dark side is a bright spot for Democrats, considering how often they allow themselves to get hosed.
       Case in point: The looming possibility of draconian cuts in Pentagon spending, part of the so-called end-of-the-year “cliff” the government is approaching. It’s the deadline imposed by a last-minute deal last year to avoid a default by the United States government. The devil’s bargain was worked out between both parties. Somehow, though, the Democrats are now on the defensive, successfully portrayed by Republicans as the cause of pending doom if no agreement is reached in time.
       Neither side is budging as we hurtle toward this “cliff,” but the GOP has successfully framed this as a failure of Obama, and already are blaming him for possible widespread layoffs in the defense industry. Just like they are clobbering Mr. Obama for the nation’s debilitating unemployment. Never mind that the bottom fell out in the previous administration, caused by the very policies the Republicans promote. Their use of half-truths and hot-button language has put the onus on this White House. Where is it written that only they get to throw the mud? Maybe Harry Reid represents an awakening.
       This is where some are bound to sigh about the sorry state of the American campaign process. They’re correct. And wrong. The reality at this point is that it’s not how you play the game, it’s who triumphs. And these days, usually it’s the bad guy who wins. Righteous protestations of justifiable outrage are for the losers. Maybe we should work on that. After the election.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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