Mind games

Herger could have put rumors to rest but ducked debate instead

Is Wally Herger showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? His Democratic opponent, Fall River Mills attorney Jim Reed, is suggesting that, well, we don’t really know whether Herger is losing his marbles, but the rumors are out there. “I didn’t start them,” he quickly adds, but shouldn’t Congressman Herger address them?

Reed is being disingenuous: He’s been spreading those rumors as fast as he can.

They were first raised by a guy named Jim Swanson, a Northern California-based blogger who puts out something called Progressive News Daily. In a Sept. 27 blog titled “Is Representative Wally Herger (CA-2) Mentally Fit to Be Re-elected?” Swanson examines recent incidents involving Herger that he says at least raise the issue. Since then Reed has been bringing up Swanson’s “rumors” at every campaign stop, and the blog is posted on his website.

We understand that a political novice from a one-stoplight town running against a 24-year incumbent has a hard time getting noticed. And Reed certainly has managed to draw attention to the race with this gambit. Alzheimer’s is a touchy subject, which is why nobody said anything about President Reagan during his last couple of years in office, when, we now know, he showed early signs of the disease.

Herger easily could have put the rumors to rest—and shamed Reed in the bargain—merely by going forward with a debate scheduled for Oct. 25 on public television in Redding. Instead he cancelled, as he has done with all previously scheduled debates with Reed. “I consider this the lowest, most vile attack I’ve ever seen,” his campaign manager harrumphed.

Maybe so, but given Herger’s history of ducking debates, it starts to look like an excuse. Besides, he’s punishing his constituents, who now will have no opportunity to see the men discuss the issues.