Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- As the Democrats enter the final stages of their primary race, the emerging story is how the Republicans are preparing to go negative in the general election with a campaign of singular viciousness against John Kerry.

Kerry's spokespeople have already sounded the alarm, warning darkly that ``the right-wing smear machine'' is gearing up, and declaring amusingly that ``it's time for George W. Bush to call off his right-wing slime machine.''

When exactly was it called on? No matter. A CNN anchor dutifully picks up the theme, noting ``how ugly this is turning so early on.''

Republicans turning ugly?

You are an average citizen following the election campaign so far. What have you gleaned from the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the candidates' debates, rallies and victory/concession speeches?

First, that President Bush has ``deceived'' (Al Sharpton), ``misled'' (John Kerry, Howard Dean), indeed, outright ``lied'' (Kucinich) us into a pointless and ruinous war that, as Kerry's chief campaign surrogate, Edward Kennedy, thunders, was ``made up in Texas'' for pure political advantage. Hence, Bush's hands are dripping with the blood of 500 brave soldiers who died for a lying president seeking better poll numbers.

Second, that his own personal military service was dishonorable: AWOL from the Air National Guard, declares Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe; perhaps even a ``deserter,'' the charge that Wesley Clark repeatedly refused to repudiate.

And these are just Bush's depredations abroad. At home, as John Edwards tells it at every campaign stop, there are little girls from the ``other America'' crying into the night because their dads, now with the blank stare of hopelessness on their faces, have lost their jobs. Why? So that ``Ken Lay and his boys'' (Dean) and other friends of this president could make obscene profits for their outsourcing ``Benedict Arnold companies'' (Kerry). And that's while Bush was at the same time despoiling the water, polluting the air and, by God, trying to kill the Arctic caribou to please his parasitic oil industry pals and to fatten up Halliburton.

Vote him out? Given all that, shouldn't the man be drawn and quartered? Rarely has there been a political assault more concentrated, more unrelenting, more unrebutted -- all occurring not as political advertising but on free media as campaign ``coverage.''

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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