Paul Jacob

Do you believe political ads? Do you? Then, you might think our congressmen are driven by a malevolent desire to deny life-saving body armor to our sons and daughters fighting in Iraq.

Look, I'm certainly no fan of our current crop of career congressmen, but even I cannot fathom such an accusation being true.

And it's not true. But it is on TV. Television ads hurl the charge against Republican Senators George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. (Have no fear, partisans — there are plenty of lies being flung at Democrats, too.)

It's no surprise that today's campaigns, and the ads that go with them, are overwhelmingly negative. After all, the main reason to vote Republican is for fear of the Democrats. And vice versa. And we get it. We fear.

Indeed, public esteem is so low for the reigning parties that, yes, perhaps it really is necessary for politicians to portray their opponents as in the hip pocket of special interests, as haters of animals, children and the elderly, and as close personal friends of Osama Bin Laden.

For career politicians, distortion works better than truth.

That's why something a friend said about candidates for political office has always stuck with me. He suggests that their positions on issues are immaterial. Simply not to be trusted at face value. Yes, voters care about issues. But politicians don't. To them, issues are simply vote-scamming devices.

My friend insists that folks look to a candidate's philosophy. Issues are always changing — conveniently, for our slippery solons. Yet, one's philosophy of government suggests how an individual will react to changing times and conditions.

Unfortunately, most candidates don't have a philosophy of government. Oops. Unless a willingness to do anything (by hook or by crook) to get elected amounts to a philosophy.

So, we hear lots of promises — candidates claiming they can do everything from finding a cure for cancer to somehow sneaking body armor past all the other congressmen supposedly hell-bent on keeping our troops in as much peril as possible. Let's call this the Wizard of Oz philosophy. Its adherents want to be behind the curtain at the capitol pulling levers, spending tax dollars and assuring us that "the great and powerful" Pol has spoken. (They're all bad wizards, but many are bad men, too.)

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.