The Note

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Let's take a short break from the Bush-Kerry savage combat over Dick Clarke; 9/11; jobs, numbers that don't add up; numbers that don't add up; a $1 trillion tax gap; a $10 trillion tax gap; disrespecting veterans; bankrupting Medicare; opposing tort reform; opposing prescription drugs; living in a parallel universe; failing to heed warnings; squandering the surplus; sticking it to the middle class; supporting a 50-cent gas tax hike; being in the tank with big oil; blocking the energy bill; and credibility to try to do a bit of a re-set on WHY we are where we are.

Here The Note will take two risks -- the risk of offending people we have covered in past cycles -- and the far, far greater risk of committing what has been considered for at least a decade the ultimate sin in political journalism: appearing to suck up.

We feel quite confident in suggesting that from top to bottom the Bush and Kerry folks are as nice a group of people as you could ever meet in presidential politics (not counting, of course, the attendees of a Kucinich campaign bake sale, or Elizabeth Edwards).

Now, there ARE some exceptions on both sides (and you know who you are).

But for the most part, this pattern both the campaigns have fallen into, where every press release, every speech, every event, and every strategy meeting is about how to destroy the other fella, is the product of an odd juxtaposition where lovely people are trying to decapitate their opponents -- and it is only March.

Think of it as sort of the opposite of what happened during the Cold War, when mutually assured destruction insured that the peace would be kept, with both sides recognizing that the use of even a single nuke would unleash the unthinkable.

Now that the weapons of mass destruction have begun to fly, neither side wants to lose for failing to have launched everything from every silo, ship, and slingshot.

We all can recite in our sleep the reasons proffered for this:

-- the 50-50 nation;

-- Kerry emerging unscathed from the nomination process with good fav/unfavs;

-- the cable-Web driven 24/7 news cycle;

-- Michael Meehan's access to a word processor;

-- the front-loaded Democratic calendar;

-- the fear that if one side lets up for even a day, they will be patsies;

-- the ghosts of Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush;

-- the ghosts of the Little Rock War Room;

-- the need to stoke the base;

-- the (apparent) lack of respect the candidates have for each other;

-- Jim Dyke's access to a word processor;

-- the Rosetta Stone belief of both parties that Negative Works;

-- and the heartfelt belief on both sides that four years of the OTHER guy as president would inflict true long-term damage on America and the world.

It even got to the point last week where the RNC took the President's favorite movie (We aren't kidding: LINK), "Austin Powers," and produced a cutting take on the GOP's "John Kerry: International Man of Mystery" thematic.

And take, for instance, two of the nicer foot soldiers in their respective camps: Terry Holt (the dashing BC04 spokesperson who learned everything he knows about being nice and not nice on Capitol Hill) and Stephanie Cutter (the graceful Kerry spokesperson who learned everything she knows about being nice and not nice on Capitol Hill).

Their loyalty to the men for whom they speak, to their colleagues, and to the causes in which they serve cannot be questioned.

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