The two men running for governor of New Jersey prove that both parties are equally unscrupulous. Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to destroy their opponents with negative advertising.
It's only July. There are still nearly four months to go before Election Day, but that doesn't stop them. Even as most voters are trying to grab a little beach time, a little vacation and family time, Gov. Jon Corzine and his Republican rival, Chris Christie, are pummeling each other with dirty campaign ads.
Call it mud slinging. Call it negative campaigning. Whatever you call it, these tactics are no credit to either man.
Christie, a former prosecutor, is being attacked for his ethics. The Corzine commercials say he's rewarded friends and political allies with multi-million-dollar deals, that he has shamelessly showered no-bid contracts on his buddies.
One commercial charged that he gave no-bid contracts to "Bush Administration political cronies. Christie gave one to the prosecutor who let his brother off in a stock fraud investigation. Another, to Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft. And when time came for telling the truth, Christie got up and left. Chris Christie. Unbelievable.''
For his part, Christie attacks the governor for his economic policies, declaring that Corzine gave sweetheart deals to state union workers, that he has raised payroll and income taxes and reduced rebates.
''A sad fact--New Jersey on the brink of bankruptcy. Once again. Jon Corzine refuses to make cuts," the commercial charges. "The latest? A sweetheart deal for state workers in Trenton. New Jersey government at its absolute worst.''
But the video Christie's TV people use is more devastating than the words. The camera zooms in on Corzine's face, magnifying his beard, giving him an angry, out of control look. It approaches a new low in dirty politics.
At the rate these guys are going, before Election Day, they'll be accusing each other of crimes. Even though, we have to believe, neither has committed any crimes. If there is a crime being committed, it's against the voters -- a crime that cannot be prosecuted. Assuming the people have no intelligence, basically, both candidates are relying on exaggerated charges to make their cases against each other.
Wikipedia defines negative campaigning as "trying to win an advantage by referring to negative aspects of an opponent or of a policy rather than emphasizing one's own positive attributes.''
Negative campaigning goes back to the birth of the Republic. Thus, during the presidential campaign of 1800, the Federalists charged that Thomas Jefferson was trying to turn the country over to the French and that he was an atheist.
Negative campaigning goes back to ancient Rome. I noticed in Pompeii, the city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., that there were vestiges of the negative campaigning of that year. Chiseled in stone was a campaign message: ''All the pickpockets are for Sextus.''
Clearly, destroying Sextus' reputation was more important to his opponent than getting the pickpocket vote.
With the perspective of two millennia, it sounds funny. But what these candidates are doing is neither funny nor quaint. It's a desecration of the election process -- and a disservice to the people of New Jersey.