IN A RECENT article in the New York Times Sunday magazine on Republican presidential candidate Sen. Phil Gramm, a supporter was quoted as saying, "He's mean, but I like mean." This pretty much sums up the state of politics in this country today.
More and more people like mean -- and nice guys, who ordinarily would finish last, cannot even get nominated.
We know that the morals of politicians have changed, but what about their manners? I spoke to Ms. Hand Glover, a well-known expert on political behavior, and she told me that these are typical questions she is being asked lately.
Dear Ms. Glover: I am scheduled to debate my opponent on television next week. Is it permissible to mention the rumor that his married brother was seen making a pass at his minister
during church services?
Dear Si: It is not only permissible but you owe it to the public to inform them what kind of relatives your opponent has. These are mean times, and even if the rumor isn't true it's perfectly legitimate to spread it among the electorate.
Dear Ms. Glover: When I sit on the dais with other Republican presidential candidates, which knife do I use to stab them in the back?
Dear Rodney: Always use the knife closest to you when stabbing an opponent. But don't attempt to do what Dan Quayle did -- when he was thinking of running -- and use a spoon.
Dear Ms. Glover: My wife objects to my being a mean candidate.
She says that if I continue behaving like an SOB she wants out of the marriage. What should I do?
Dear Charlie: If your wife doesn't understand how rotten politics has become, then you'd better find yourself one that does. When you start kicking someone in the groin during the primary, you don't need a family member around to tell you that it's not politically correct.
Dear Ms. Glover: Phil Gramm is constantly being portrayed as a mean man who always goes for the jugular. Pat Buchanan is actually rabid when he opens his mouth. Jesse Helms is the king of the cheap shot. Is there any way of getting their autographs?
Dear Wigglesworth: I'm sure that you can get them if you send in $1 and a certificate stating that you never had an abortion.
Dear Ms. Glover: If politics gets meaner and meaner, does it follow that we will have a civil war?
Dear Sumner: Not necessarily, but you can expect a lot more shooting in the streets between our legislators who are deeply divided over how best to balance the budget.
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.