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Side effects may include blurred party affiliation

My 14-year-old tv is living on borrowed circuitry. When the old set's time came, I figured the sound would go first — or the horizontal hold. Instead, it was the politics.

It happened during the nightly news. At the break, a commercial for congressional candidate Roger Kahn came on. It talked quite a bit about the guy, but never noted his party affiliation.

"See?" I muttered to the missus. "The sound on this thing is shot. Who'd run a political spot without saying what party they belong to?"

Then an ad to re-elect Gov. Roy Barnes appeared. It featured the usual claims of incumbent jobholders: Since their arrival, the world has been enveloped in a gauzy Golden Age of peace, goodwill and shiny progress — even if Georgia's rock-bottom education ranking now has us saying, "Thank God for Afghanistan," instead of Mississippi.

But then there appeared an incongruous image, of Barnes with President Bush the Younger.

"Did you see that?" I asked.

"Yes," said my helpmeet. "Isn't Barnes a Democrat?"

"It's that picture tube," I groused, clouting the set with a size-13 wingtip. "There's probably a story about Bush on the next channel. Some sort of double-exposure effect."

Minutes later, an ad touting the re-election of Sen. Max Cleland appeared. Graphics flashed across the screen: a newspaper headline, "Bush administration agrees to Cleland's homeland changes." Then a photo of Max chatting with the chief exec, and a caption: "Supports the president on Iraq."

"Who's the Democrat running against Cleland?" I asked.

"I hate to tell you," said my spouse, "but he's the Democrat."

"Get out of here," I said. "We'll just have to get a new TV, that's all. This old clunker is mixing up sound and pictures now."

Then we went back to the news, which included a story about recent poll data. Evidently, more than 70 percent of Georgia's populace — about the same percentage running red lights on a regular basis — approves of Bush's performance as president. And it's become clear (in Georgia, anyway) that if a Republican president is that popular, then Democratic candidates will cuddle up to him, too — even if Bush keeps dropping by here to raise money for his fellow GOPsters. Some gratitude to Roy and Max.

So what is No. 43's secret? Is it stirring oratory, as when the president most recently and memorably observed, "Fool me once, shame on ... you. Fool ... Well, you won't fool us again." Right up there with "a date that will live in infamy." Or does Bush's popularity stem from other perverse sources: the economy a shambles, budget surplus, looming war and the stock market in the sub-basement? The people of Georgia are more liberal than they know (at least in terms of performance evaluation) if they're giving this hapless federal employee high marks.

No, I think it's something else. I think we like President Bush because he's one of us. He hates his job (Dad made him go into the family business), and he never got to do what he really wanted: become commissioner of baseball. Plus he's stuck in traffic all the time; a presidential motorcade is almost as bad as the I-75/I-85 connector on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates cash in on the guy's popularity by running commercials that make you think they're Republicans.

It all reminds me of those wonder-drug commercials where the complications are just as bad as the malady. "Take Happynex for relief of depression. Side effects may include anxiety, mood swings and a general desire to hurl yourself into a deep, rocky gorge."

It may not be accuracy in advertising, but at least I know the TV's OK.


Side effects of Glen Slattery include a strong compulsion to turn off the news and watch Vanna White spin vowels.??

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