The campaign follies begin


December 17, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

Early campaign notes:

Democratic presidential candidate Paul E. Tsongas opened his state campaign headquarters yesterday in the 500 block of West Fayette Street, declaring that the United States needs to "regenerate the engine that runs the economy" using measures such as a cut in the capital gains tax.

He even got off a good line: he described a tax cut for the middle class as "Twinkie economics. It tastes good, but it doesn't last."

Of course, that clever little quip probably cost Tsongas the fast-food vote. I, for one, have always found Twinkies nourishing as well as delicious.

In describing the itinerary of the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, a press release from the Tsongas' Boston headquarters, said he would shake hands with the little people at "Lancaster Market on Green Street."

Wait a minute: Lancaster Market?

I think they meant Lexington Market on Greene Street.

Can't his people read a map? Obviously, the Tsongas campaign steamroller is getting off to a fine start here. . .

Maryland's Secretary of State decided to put David Duke, the Louisiana racist, on the ballot before he had officially declared his intention to run in the Republican presidential primaries.

But our own A. Robert Kaufman, the community activist and erstwhile candidate for the U.S. Senate who launched his presidential campaign last Friday, may have to get on the ballot the hard way -- he may have to demonstrate significant interest in his candidacy throughout Maryland, a test that was spared David Duke.

So, what's the difference between Kaufman and Duke?

Well, Duke is a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan who gained national notoriety with a message that even the president of the United States has described as racist. His candidacy for governor earlier this year was disavowed by leaders of his own party in Louisiana. His candidacy for president has been disavowed by leaders of his own party, both nationally and in Maryland.

But because Duke has national notoriety, he qualifies for the ballot.

Meanwhile, Kaufman is an avowed communist who ran twice for the U.S. Senate here and lost. He heads an ongoing effort to cut urban insurance rates through the creation of a quasi-public municipal insurance agency.

He has been the host of a series of forums that have examined important social issues such as tax reform, race relations, and the drug problem.

But because his ideas are merely thoughtful and provocative -- not racist and inflammatory -- the national press couldn't care less about Kaufman. And because the national press isn't interested, the state secretary of state is hesitant about putting his name on the ballot.

What does all of this suggest about the way to get ahead in politics these days?

Meanwhile, Sunday night's televised debate gave a national audience its first chance to see the differences in style and substance between the six mainstream Democratic candidates.

Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton support a tax cut for the middle class as a way of jump-starting the economy.

Tsongas and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin label such a tax cut political hokum.

Former California Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. seems to be running as the anti-establishment candidate.

Kerrey opposed the Persian Gulf War. Clinton thought it was swell.

Harkin got in a good line when he compared President Bush to King George 3rd of England. Kerrey scored when he reminded us that the administration had said the Persian Gulf War was about "jobs, jobs, jobs. Well, where are the jobs?" Kerrey demanded.

Wilder stumbled when he reminded the audience of his slave ancestry (ancient history) but brought a chuckle when he tried to restore order during a squabble between the others over campaign financing, "Boys, boys, boys," he said, spreading his arms beatifically.

Alas, there were no clear winners Sunday -- with the possible exception of moderator Tom Brokaw, who was smooth as silk all night.

But Brokaw isn't running for office.

He's a network anchor.

The presidency would be a step down for him.

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