Saturday, June 10, 2006

"When you pull a gun, kill a man."

So says Walter Brennan (left) as Ike Clanton in John Ford's classic My Darling Clementine, after Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) has neatly corralled Clanton's rowdy boys.
Oblivious to such advice, Delaware GOP executive director David Crossan is firing away with his pistol jammed in his holster. The GOP has gone negative against Beau Biden early in the campaign, setting up the Website, pushing a proposed contitutional amendment to make him ineligible to serve and running a negative radio spot, all to make the point that Biden lacks the experience to serve as attorney general.
The News Journal reports that Sussex County GOP chairman Bill Lee thinks going negative this early in the campaign is a mistake:
"At this stage, we should be all Ferris, all the time. The last thing we need to be doing is anything that increases Beau Biden's name recognition," said Lee, the party's 2004 gubernatorial candidate.
As a candidate, Ferris Wharton comes straight from central casting; he looks like Sam Waterston with sandy hair. Wharton is a career prosecutor who made his name putting Tom Capano in jail. (Bill Lee knows Wharton professionally; he was the judge in the Capano trial.)
The trouble with the attacks is that Beau Biden has a pretty decent resume himself, including clerking for a federal judge, a stint with the U.S. Justice Department in Kosovo and as a federal prosecutor, and an appointment in the Judge Advocate General's office in the Delaware National Guard. Biden may have the more famous name, but he is not as well known professionally, which is why the attention on his resume probably helps him.
Jack Markell knows something about neatly dispensing with opponents who go negative. He became state treasurer by beating Janet Rzewnicki after she had embarrassed herself with the most distasteful and inept negative attack in Delaware political history.
These ads just make it look like the Republicans are whining," said state Treasurer Jack Markell, a Democrat. "Politics in Delaware is usually about the quality of someone's ideas and this kind of campaigning could backfire on them."
The irony for Ferris Wharton, who reportedly approved the radio spots, is that he could end up looking like the clueless neophyte by allowing himself to be handled by a Karl Rove wannabe. Meanwhile, Crossan has his finger on the trigger, firing away:
Crossan said some senior Republicans, including members of the executive committee, have asked him to pull the ads, but he has no plans to do so.
Update: In a letter in today's News Journal, a certain Frank Noyes underscores how the GOP's negative campaign is backfiring by repeating some of Biden's work history:
Joseph "Beau" Biden III, the announced Democratic candidate, was admitted to practice in Delaware in 2002. However, he has been a practicing attorney for ten years, with over six years' experience as a federal prosecutor in the very busy Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


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