There was a time when politics wasn't a blood sport.
At the end of the day, Tip O'Neill shared a whiskey with Ronald Reagan, and Senators George Aiken and Mike Mansfield had breakfast daily. Now it's routine to call your opponent a liar, a coward, or an al-Qaeda operative.
Last week, the public debate hit a new low when radio talk- show host Rush Limbaugh accused actor Michael J. Fox of being a fraud.
Limbaugh claimed that Fox -- aka Alex Keaton of the television program ``Family Ties'' and diagnosed in 1991 with Parkinson's disease -- was faking his symptoms in a series of campaign ads on behalf of candidates who support embryonic stem- cell research. ``Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting,'' Limbaugh said.
In a streaming video from his studio, Limbaugh can be seen faking the symptoms of a Parkinson's patient as he waves his arms and bobs his head.
Fox's ads were already getting good play before Limbaugh's attack. Fox, looking like the boy next door -- if the boy next door were being buffeted by an unseen hurricane -- quietly asks voters to back candidates who support federal funds for research that might cure him and others.
One ad ran in Missouri, where Republican Senator Jim Talent is locked in an unexpectedly close race with challenger Claire McCaskill and where voters are being asked whether their constitution should be amended to protect embryonic stem-cell research. In the ad, Fox says: ``Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope. They say all politics is local, but that's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans -- Americans like me.''
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