This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

October 3, 2006

Edward Peeks

Instead of buying votes, we’re selling candidates

“Unk, I see where your friend, Massey Energy Chief Don Blankenship, is up to spending big in this election season, like before. He figures on separating wheat from chaff with a lot of cash,” Tris said.

“You’re trying to pull my leg about the extent of my friends,” I said. “But I trust you not to pull my leg off.”

“Anyway, Unk, the season is here,” Tris said. “The Don, as some call him, makes it known he’s on a roll with millions for TV, radio, newspaper and telephone messages.”

“It’s his money to separate wheat from chaff, sheep from goats or whatever,” I said. “The Internet is also at his fingertips and his wallet.”

“There you go,” Tris said. “The Don may not be your friend, but you’re in his corner. And the next thing you’ll tell me if I listen is that it’s his free-speech right to spend a coal car full of his own money to put somebody out and somebody else in.”

“Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court says spending within the rules of the law is a constitutional right,” I said.

“Because it’s legal don’t make it right to spend a lot of money to tell a lot of half truths and mislead a lot of people with ads on TV, radio and in newspapers,” Tris said.

“It’s a tough call,” I said. “It’s not easy to tell the half truth from the whole truth, or the difference between who’s lying and who’s crying. So much depends on what a reader or listener wants to believe, hear or think.”

“I think Rush Limbaugh on radio makes believers by the way he comes on,” Tris said. “He speaks with fire like a black Baptist preacher describing heat in hell for sinners.”

“Don’t rock the boat,” I said. “Black preachers in Charleston are some of the best friends of Mayor Danny Jones.”

“I see the Swift Boaters are coming to rock a while on Rep. Alan Mollohan, the way they rocked presidential candidate John Kerry,” Tris said. “You admit they took you news people for a ride and made you cast the impression that Kerry went to Vietnam with a camera, not a gun, so he could take his picture and run for president.”

“Yes, the Swift Boaters are in West Virginia and other states as well this election season,” I said. “But you can’t fool all the people all the time, as Lincoln said.”

“We may be down in West Virginia when measured for a lot of things, but politics ain’t one,” Tris said. “The new politics sells candidates to voters in ads over the air and in the press, not the old politics of buying votes for ‘a dollar and a swallow,’ say, in the coalfields yesteryear.”

“I agree that it’s a new day in electoral politics, wherein kingpins like the Don stand tall,” I said. “Now that’s a change, if not cool.”

Peeks is a former Gazette business/labor editor.


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