Has anybody noticed that Bob Brown's proposed clean campaign pledge doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense?
As reported in the GOP E-brief, the pledge reads:
"On television, radio ads, newspaper ads, direct mail, and in phone calls all parties agree not to criticize, attack, condemn or characterize in any way any of their opponents in the 2004 election. Instead, all candidates agree to only use paid communication to highlight their own views on the issues of importance to Montana voters. Issues associated with governing the state of Montana ought to be the focus of this campaign.
"Should any party break the pledge the other party shall be released from the conditions of the pledge."
As I read this, Brown would violate the pledge if he said, "Brian Schweitzer is a fine fellow, and I think he would make an excellent governor." Wouldn't that statement violate the "characterize in any way" provision of the pledge?
Then there's the misplaced "only." As I read the pledge, candidates agree not to say anything about issues of importance unless they are paying to say it. If the pledge said what I suspect Brown meant to say, the "only" would have gone after "communication."
Schweitzer's version makes more sense, but I can't say that I like it much better. I don't think much of clean campaign pledges. They always have a provision canceling the agreement if either party violates it, so all a pledge really means is that the candidates agree to run a clean campaign for as long as they run a clean campaign.
If candidates want to pledge a clean campaign, they should pledge it to themselves, as a matter of conscience; or to God, as a matter of morality; or to the voters, as a matter of honor. The one person to whom no pledge is owed is the opponent.