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Jack Zaleski, Published September 15 2012

Zaleski: Do we assume all of them are liars?

If you’ve been watching TV political ads like I have, and your brain is not atrophied by no-thinking-allowed partisanship, you either want to laugh or cry. Or shake your head in disbelief and disgust.

North Dakota nice? Yeah, right. The North Dakota way? Well, yeah, apparently it is.

Consider the U.S. House contest between Republican Kevin Cramer and Democrat Pam Gulleson. In the past couple of weeks, they have boiled away a lot of time and energy calling each other liars. He says she’s lying about his conduct on the Public Service Commission. She says he’s lying about her legislative record.

So, no matter which of them wins in November, political party hardheads will argue that North Dakotans elected a liar to Congress. Too bad. I know both candidates. Good people. Neither is a liar.

The U.S. Senate race between Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg is a low-road show, too. Between their own spots and super PAC ads on their behalf, a viewer could conclude both are self-serving hypocrites, each bent on destroying the nation as we know it.

For example, a Berg ad suggests Heitkamp is beholden to out-of-state “liberals” like Hollywood movie types. What nonsense. And what of it, anyway? The movie industry encompasses thousands of those big and small businesses that Berg says create jobs. I’m guessing his business-friendly sensibilities would not discriminate against “liberal” business owners.

Heitkamp and her surrogates are trying to paint Berg as a slumlord because of his tenuous connection to a Fargo apartment development company. It’s a stretch, but Berg’s response has been less than brilliant.

He would be better served by defending the company – even if he’s not directly associated with it – because some renters indeed are slobs and vandals, and should be evicted and/or lose their rental deposits. Why not stand up and defend the company, as any advocate for business would?

Heitkamp is airing a very good ad that features an elderly North Dakota woman, a cancer survivor, who says Medicare saved her life, and – this is the kicker – she implies she would have died if Berg had had his way with Medicare cuts and changes.

While the grandmotherly star of the ad is near-perfect, and she exudes that North Dakota aura of sincerity we all love, it’s an impossible reach to connect the dots between a freshman congressman and the likelihood of her dying from cancer.

And so it goes. Political campaigns seldom are distinguished by candor and honesty, but this go-’round is setting lows for dizzying spin and clumsy half-truths. And it’s bipartisan. How nice.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.