Matt Towery

While American troops were engaged in only their third day of combat in Iraq, an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination for president was joining a disaffected and ultimately riotous crowd of war protesters in New York City.

But the important question for Rev. Al Sharpton isn't what his true intentions were, but why he even bothered. In our recent survey of 1,000 adults, a vast majority of those with an opinion said they don't consider the black activist to be a legitimate candidate for president. Significantly, almost as many African Americans (43 percent) dismissed Sharpton's candidacy as whites did (44.7 percent). The poll has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Is it unfair even to ask if a candidate should be taken seriously or not? Shouldn't voters make that choice when the time comes? Not always. In fact, the question has already been posed. In an NBC television interview earlier this year, host Tim Russert followed a listing of "Big Al" follies with this blunt question to Sharpton: "If a white candidate had that background, do you believe people would take him seriously as a candidate for president?"

"I think you have white candidates with worse backgrounds," Sharpton replied.

Maybe, Reverend. But that doesn't change the fact that your shrill words and circus barker antics demean the entire political process. And as of this past weekend, they also undermine the work of our troops in Iraq. Doubtless Saddam Hussein or his proxies used your anti-war sentiments to encourage Iraqi troops to keep up the fight and kill more Americans, instead of surrendering and saving lives on both sides.

Some political pundits believe Sharpton serves a legitimate purpose in the 2004 Democratic primary. They say that while he will probably fare poorly in early Midwestern and Northern Democratic primary elections, he may later enrich and enliven the election sweepstakes by attracting significant support among African Americans in the South.

What a joke! Yes, seasoned political observers can identify and respect a politically astute gadfly candidate like Rev. Jesse Jackson, as controversial as he can be. Jackson is sometimes able to wield enough clout to alter political strategies within the Democratic Party. But Sharpton so far has been completely unable to accomplish anything that constructive, and here's hoping he never does. Apparently, minority and dissatisfied liberal voters want a reasoned voice for their interests, not just a loud one.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery