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Campaign Notebook 

by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ith less than two weeks until the election, the television advertisement war between incumbent Congresswoman Cathy McMorris and her Democratic challenger, rancher Peter Goldmark, is becoming more and more hardcore.

A McMorris ad that first aired late last week ends with a surprise hammer blow that Goldmark is either a nutjob or unpatriotic. The ad begins with further assertions that Goldmark is "the tax man" by citing tax increases under Gov. Mike Lowry when Goldmark was Lowry's appointed secretary of agriculture (for five months).

Then the ad takes a head-snapping turn to say the tax man is really the al-Qaeda man. The narrator intones: "Peter Goldmark. He thinks 9/11 was America's fault ..."

The ad is based on an Oct. 6 column written by Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I, which includes these two sentences: "[Goldmark] has also taken up journalist Bob Woodward's claim that senior Bush administration brass received but ignored warnings of an imminent al-Qaida attack."

But the McMorris attack ad is so vicious, it even prompted a response from Connelly on Oct. 22.

"In no way did Peter Goldmark blame America for 9/11 in the statement I quoted," Connelly writes. "To say that he was blaming America would be stretching the truth to the breaking point."

In his statement, Connelly says Goldmark was citing a moment in the Woodward book where FBI Director George Tenet warns National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice of the likelihood of an impending al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil.

Goldmark is critical of the government's lack of response to a terrorist threat, not hatching conspiracy theoriess that it was behind the attack, Connelly concludes.

"Call Scary Voiceover Man!"

What's good for the incumbent is good for the challenger, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (or d-trip as it's called in shorthand) has recently decided.

Shaken out of its torpor by incessant frenzy in the blogosphere (where Goldmark has for months been a grassroots darling), the Beltway-based DCCC recently purchased $323,000 of TV ad time in the Spokane market.

The first fruits of this national buy is an ad attacking McMorris for "raiding Social Security." This time, the sputters of outrage are in the other camp, as McMorris's campaign writes, "the notion ... is a myth perpetuated to frighten America's seniors into thinking their long-promised benefits are in jeopardy."

Who Loves Veterans More?

McMorris and Goldmark have gone back and forth aggressively on claims and counterclaims McMorris either voted to increase veterans' benefits or voted to cut them. That's a pretty good trick if it's all in the same year.

Truth is, each camp can claim to be factual.

McMorris certainly voted (as did 389 others in Congress) to approve HR 1815, which increased veterans' health funding by $735 million. This increase was funded, however, in large part by fees veterans pay.

McMorris in May voted against amendments that would have A) restored $507 million stripped from the bill by conservatives and B) increased veterans' health care by $1.82 billion. The funding for this would largely have come by reducing tax cuts for people making more than $1 million a year.

The McMorris camp says the amendments were, "... fiscally irresponsible and would have raised taxes on working families and businesses ..."

Where was DCCC before this?

Former Democratic Fifth District Congressional Candidate Tom Keefe is among many in the party irked that the Beltway pundits in the DCCC have failed to support candidates here -- just as other "New Democrats" around the interior West say the national group is almost blind to the emergence of conservative, populist Democrats in red enclaves.

"The DCCC at the last minute walked away from us and a media buy they had promised," Keefe says of his own 2000 run for Congress. "The great whisperers and the great mentioners in D.C. will say this guy or that guy is attractive. My gripe with the DCCC is they are not nimble and flexible enough to see the value in investing ..." in a Goldmark or a Larry Grant in Idaho, Keefe says.

Former Speaker Still Talking

Don Barbieri, who lost to McMorris in the 2004 Congressional race, says he was recently speaking to former Speaker of the House Tom Foley and relates his comments: "Tom was angry at what the current leadership is doing to the reputation of Congress. That isn't a partisan comment, he was saying they have lost focus, that it's become all about self-serving interests and we have to shed ourselves of that."

With Congress's approval rating at 17 percent, there's no way to go but up.
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