Saturday, October 28, 2006

Senate campaign turns to seamy fiction in finale

Senate campaign turns to seamy fiction in finale

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional election campaigns, already dominated by negative advertising, took a seamy turn on Friday as a Republican incumbent seized on sexually explicit passages from a Democratic opponent's novel.

Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen, in a tight race for re-election with Democratic challenger and Vietnam veteran James Webb, issued a press release citing racy passages from five of Webb's military novels.

The excerpts included passages that detailed underage sex scenes and scenes that could be construed as demeaning to women.

Webb told The Washington Post Radio on Friday the release of the excerpts was "a Karl Rove campaign tactic" and a "classic example of the way this campaign has worked. It's smear after smear." Rove is the top White House political adviser.

Webb defended his fiction as "illuminative" and complained that the interviewer read the sexually charged passages from his books on the radio.

The Allen campaign's tactic came during a week in which the Republican National Committee released an advertisement aimed at a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Tennessee, Harold Ford.

That ad pointed out that Ford had attended a Playboy party and it included a bare-shouldered white woman urging the black Ford to give her a call sometime. Some complained the ad was racist before it was withdrawn.

In defense of his books, Webb referred to a novel written by Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynne, which the Democratic Senate campaign committee later said "featured brothels and attempted rapes."

In a CNN interview, Lynne Cheney refuted those claims. "I have never written anything sexually explicit," she said.