OK vs. NOT OK….Apparently the last two weeks of the campaign are going to be devoted to ever shriller and more ridiculous scare tactics. There seems to be some kind of law that requires presidential campaigns to become asymptotically more trivial as election day approaches.

However, some scare tactics are OK ? just part of big league politics ? and some aren’t. Here’s my personal scorecard of the scare stories making the rounds over the past few days:

  • Suggesting that terrorists are likely to attack us if John Kerry is elected is not OK. It’s an outrageous fabrication with no basis in reality.

  • Suggesting that Kerry’s anti-terror policies are weak ? even though he says otherwise ? is OK.

  • Claiming that George Bush is planning to cut Social Security checks by $500 is not OK. There’s no reason to think that’s true. (If he gets his private account scheme through Congress, he won’t finance it with higher taxes or lower benefits. He’ll finance it the same way he finances everything: by running a bigger deficit.)

  • Claiming that Bush policies make a draft more likely ? even though Bush says he opposes a draft ? is OK. It’s perfectly arguable that his aggressive foreign policy instincts make further wars ? and therefore a draft ? more probable than they would otherwise be.

  • Mock outrage at Teresa Heinz Kerry’s gaffe about Laura Bush is not OK. It wasn’t that big a deal, she apologized immediately, and Laura Bush says she wasn’t offended.

  • Blaming Bush for the flu vaccine shortage is OK. There have been repeated warnings from experts since 2001 that this could happen and Bush did nothing about them. He’s the president, he gets the blame. That’s the way it goes.

I’m sure we’ll have a brand new list to deal with after the weekend. And I imagine they’ll be incrementally even more trivial than these.

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