May 30, 1999
A 'Bush' Web Site, Woven From Mischief
White House 2000: George W. Bush (R)
Campaigns: White House 2000
Join a Discussion on Election 2000
By B. DRUMMOND AYRES JR.
very major Presidential hopeful
has an Internet site that voters, journalists and the just-plain-curious can
visit for biographical information,
campaign schedules, speech texts
and the like. Some have several sites.
It's the way the political game is
played on the cusp of the new millennium.
But there is mischief afoot on the
It costs only $70 and imagination
enough to come up with an unclaimed Internet address to establish a Web site. More to the point,
anybody can set one up as long as nobody else has laid claim to the particular combination of words and letters used for the address.
Thus www.gwbush.com does not
necessarily have to be the official
Web address of Gov. George W. Bush
And it isn't.
The real George W. Bush site is
So what is www.gwbush.com?
A click of the mouse reveals what
appears to be an official Bush campaign site, one patriotically tinged in
red, white and blue and filled with
thoughtful thoughts from a man running "a campaign with compassion."
But on closer inspection, it turns
out that www.gwbush.com is a comedic, caustic, cajoling anti-Bush
site, the creation of one Zack Exley
of Somerville, Mass. An "Amnesty
2000" proposal posted on the site
turns out not to be an imaginative
new approach to law and order but
"a bold new policy initiative to free
all 'grown-ups' from prison." The
"life experiences" that shaped the
Governor and merit his election are
said to include "his rambunctious
youth in which he doesn't deny there
was use of cocaine and other drugs."
Enough, says the real George W.
Bush, who has never proposed freedom for all jailed grown-ups and who
insists that he did nothing while
growing up that would disqualify him
from being President.
"We're aware of the site," he said
the other day when asked about
www.gwbush.com and Mr. Exley.
"This guy is just a garbage man."
Mr. Exley responds that all is fair
in politics, especially freedom of
speech, and adds: 'Click HERE for
an earlier Bush 'garbage' initiative.'
What comes up is a sweeping accusation of shady financial dealings by
the Bush family.
Lawyers for the Bush campaign
have filed a complaint about the site
with the Federal Election Commission and have sent a letter to Mr. Exley with this warning:
"In your wholesale misappropriation of the georgewbush.com Web
site, you violate a host of copyright
and trademark laws."
A campaign spokesman, David
Beckwith, said the letter had resulted in some artistic changes in the
Exley site and some "toning down"
of its material.
"We think we scared him off a
bit," Mr. Beckwith said. "But it's still
a very objectionable site."
Takes On Attack Ads
he special election called in Oregon in 1996 when harassment and
ethics charges forced Senator Bob
Packwood to resign was one of the
harshest ever seen on the West
Coast. For weeks on end, the two candidates seeking to succeed the veteran Republican -- Ron Wyden, a
Democrat, and Gordon Smith, a Republican -- went at it with television
attack advertisements, accusing
each other, usually through the voice
of an announcer rather than in person, of dishonesty, ineptitude and
whatever else struck them as politically useful at the moment.
They ended up, a few of weeks before Election Day, in a dead heat, according to the polls. They also ended
up, those same polls found, in deep
trouble with voters, with two of every
three saying the campaign had been
conducted in the gutter for so long
that serious issues never got discussed.
Mr. Wyden had second thoughts.
He pulled his negative advertisements, asked all special interest
groups supporting him to pull theirs,
then told voters in a new commercial: "Unfortunately, when my opponent began running his negative ads,
I responded. It spiraled out of control. Like many of you, I'm sick of
Mr. Smith grumbled that Mr. Wyden was being politically cynical,
that the damage had been done already and that in any event Mr. Wyden could not stop his supporters
from continuing to run negative advertisements. But by then Mr. Wyden had grabbed an edge in the race.
He hung on to it to win, and two
years later, having completed the
Packwood term, went on to win a full
Now, Mr. Wyden says it is time for
Congress to pass legislation that will
encourage more candidates to forswear negative television advertisements. He proposes a significant
amendment to the law that permits
every Congressional hopeful to buy
advertising time at a station's lowest
rate, a law originally meant to encourage campaign discourse.
Mr. Wyden wants the law rewritten to require that every time a candidate's opponent is mentioned in an
advertisement, the words must be
spoken by the candidate.
"If you want to take advantage of
this subsidy and you feel the need to
talk about your opponent instead of
your own beliefs, have the courage to
say it yourself," Mr. Wyden said as
he dropped his bill into the hopper
the other day. "Take accountability
for your campaign, or you can't take
advantage of the discounted rates.
No more hiding behind grainy photographs and blood-curdling music."
Will the proposal go anywhere, given that old political saw that "candidates go negative because negative
"It's certainly worth exploring,"
said Trevor Potter, a former Federal
Election Commission chairman.
Voter Registration at the Last Minute
nly six states permit voters to
register on Election Day: Idaho,
Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire,
Wisconsin and Wyoming. The remaining 44 prohibit such same-day
participation, mainly out of fear of
fraud or, in some cases, because political leaders favor low turnout, figuring it makes races easier to control and predict.
Some election experts calculate
that Election Day registration increases voter participation, on average, by almost 10 percent, a significant jump given that turnout in the
country as a whole has slipped close
to a record low. In Minnesota, election officials say that 16 percent of
the votes that gave Jesse Ventura his
surprise victory in the 1998 governor's race came from people who
registered for the first time on Election Day.
That figure made an impression
on two California state legislators,
Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg of
Sherman Oaks and Senator Kevin
Murray of Los Angeles, both Democrats. So now they are pushing legislation that would permit Election
Day registration in California, where
voter turnout fell to 41 percent last
November, compared with 64 percent in Minnesota and Maine, 62 percent in Wyoming, 60 percent in New
Hampshire and Wisconsin, and 59
percent in Idaho.
The bills have drawn the support
of California labor leaders and several major civic organizations, like
People for the American Way, but
they have had mixed legislative success. Senator Murray's proposal
went down to defeat on Thursday in
the Appropriations Committee vote,
but in the Assembly, Mr. Hertzberg's
was approved and forwarded to the
floor for later consideration.
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