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Brush attacks below the belt

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004

"All who draw the sword will die by the sword."

-- Mathew 26:52

Two years after the 2002 U.S. Senate election in which Saxby Chambliss beat Max Cleland, Demo-crats are still angry about Chambliss' television ads that put Cleland's picture beside Osama bin Laden's.

It was a cheap shot. Not since the 1998 race for lieutenant governor had a candidate in gentlemanly Georgia stooped so low. That was when Mitch Skandalakis -- since sent to prison for lying to the FBI in a bribery probe -- portrayed Democrat Mark Taylor as a drug-rehab patient.

Those below-the-belt ads were bad, but at least they didn't violate the late Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican.

Joey Brush has already been accused of violating at least two of the 10 Com-mandments (the ones against adultery and coveting another person's wife, if you need it spelled out). And now he's violated the 11th with a late attack on his Republican opponent, Jim Whitehead.

In radio and television ads, Brush hints that Whitehead is seeking election to profit from state contracts. And we know who is already under indictment for such activity, the spots sneer: ex-state Sen. Charles Walker, who is accused, among other things, of using leverage as a lawmaker to squeeze business for his temp agency.

The radio spot floats Walker's name past, and the TV ad hovers Walker's image alongside an unflattering photo of Whitehead -- shades of Cleland and bin Laden, which is perhaps appropriate for such an act of political terrorism.

Linking Jim Whitehead to Charles Walker is not just absurd, but sickening. It even turns the stomachs of some Brush supporters; one told me Whitehead would "clean Joey's clock." (Luckily for Brush, he meant in votes).

I tried to stay out of this race. It was a mild relief when Democrat Chuck Pardue filed to run; this newspaper's policy is to endorse candidates in primaries only when there is no General Election opponent, so I knew we wouldn't offer an opinion for Tuesday.

Besides: While Brush and I have always gotten along just fine, Jim Whitehead and I are close friends. The two of us have co-chaired the volunteer committees that organize the Memorial Day and Christmas celebrations in Columbia County. I am adamant about keeping personal relationships out of endorsements, so I was relieved to chicken out of an official position in the 24th.

Not anymore.

I know Jim Whitehead well; he is a man of character and integrity. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar or an idiot.

I also know Joey Brush well, and know he has gotten a pass on questions about character and integrity by shifting focus to his status in the Atlanta hierarchy. Fellow Republicans have shoved their heads in the sand rather than confront allegations about Brush, just as they ignored questions about Robin Williams.

Isn't that exactly what Republicans accused Democrats of doing in the Bill Clinton scandal -- overlooking allegations of immoral behavior in the interest of hanging on to power? How comfortable would Brush be to have his picture hovering on screen next to Clinton? Can we get a video clip of Brush saying "I did not have sex with that woman..."?

And when Brush boasts about his seniority, doesn't that sound an awful lot like Charles Walker, who treated ethics complaints like a perk of his leadership post?

Brush, who lives in a figurative glass house since leaving the home in Appling that he handed over to his sometimes-estranged wife this spring, shouldn't have thrown these stones. And Columbia County voters, who know cheap shots when they see them, shouldn't reward such behavior.

If Joey doesn't like it, let him commiserate with Walker.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)



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