Every night the television networks tell us about the "big issues" of 1984: the economy, war and peace, taxes, civil rights and the environment.
But what about orgonomy, the haircut mix-up, the kid's Toyota, the doctored resume or the paternity suit? These, too, are the stuff of politics, embarrassing issues that can make or break political careers.
Orgonomy became a political issue in New Hampshire last month when syndicated columnist Jack Anderson wrote that Sen. Gordon J. Humphrey's wife, Patricia, was a member of the American College of Orgonomy. Orgonomy, he wrote, was a psychological school of thought holding that "orgasms are essential to a healthy psyche in children as well as adults."
The column set off a round of newspaper stories and accusations. Humphrey acknowledged that his wife was involved in the study of orgonomy, but denied that it advocates orgasms for children. The Republican senator accused his challlenger, Rep. Norman E. D'Amours (D-N.H.), of planting the story; D'Amours denied it. Each accused the other of dirty politics.
Within two weeks, a University of New Hampshire poll found that half of the state's residents were familiar with orgonomy. "I don't think it had much bearing on the race," D'Amours' press secretary, George Burke, said. "It may have even cut against us."
Every election has its share of offbeat issues and unlikely controversies. Usually, they begin with a revelation of some dark secret from a candidate's past or an inappropriate statement by a candidate.
That has happened this year. Judy Petty, a GOP House candidate in Arkansas, for example, sparked a controversy in August by saying, "Some things are worse than war."
Bart Gordon, a Democratic House candidate in Tennessee, recently was embarrassed by reports in the Nashville Banner that he had settled a paternity suit out of court shortly before announcing his candidacy.
Then, too, there always are flaps over doctored resumes, candidates' addresses and just plain errors.
Because of a schedule snafu, for example, Elizabeth H. Mitchell, Democratic Senate candidate from Maine, missed her final television debate with Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine). She was getting her hair cut.
Robert K. Dornan, a Republican House candidate in California, caused a stir earlier this year when he listed a Holiday Inn as his residence in Orange County. He has since bought a home. Carrie Francke, a promising GOP House candidate in Missouri, got into hot water last week over a doctored resume. She claimed five degrees, but is a few credit hours short of earning one of them.
Two things set the '84 campaign apart from others: the tastelessness of some charges and candidates' increasing use of negative advertising:
In Michigan, the campaign of Democratic Sen. Carl Levin is broadcasting a 1983 film segment that shows Republican Senate candidate Jack Lousma, a former astronaut, telling a Japanese audience that "back home in the United States" he owned a Toyota. Lousma, badly needing the votes of people whose livelihoods depend on the U.S. auto industry, last week said the car belongs to his son.
In Montana, GOP Senate candidate Chuck Cozzens aired a radio ad that said "some folks would call" Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) "a wimp . . . . He's a wimp." This set off an uproar. "Montanans won't know anything about who is a wimp, but they will know who is a a simp," editorialized the Missoulian in Missoula.
In Texas, Rep. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) ran a radio ad accusing Democratic opponent Lloyd Doggett of using a male strip show to raise campaign funds after Doggett received a contribution from a gay-rights group. Doggett initially denied the charge, but later returned $600 raised at a male strip show in San Antonio.
In Oklahoma, a tough TV commercial pictured GOP congressional candidate Frank Keating in a boxing ring, saying, "as a Tulsa prosecutor I won every case I tried." This apparently stretched the truth. Rep. James R. Jones fired back with an ad detailing how Keating had lost two major kickback cases as a U.S. attorney. "In Oklahoma, we believe a man is only as good as his word," Jones' ad concluded.
In Illinois, Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) is airing a commercial that pictures an angry mob taking over the U.S. Embassy in Iran as a voice says, "America unites against Iran. But Paul Simon writes an official letter to the Ayatollah Khomeini praising him as 'a just and holy man.' Simon labels the seizure of 63 American hostages as a misunderstanding."
The quotations were taken out of context from a letter Rep. Simon (D-Ill.) wrote to Khomeini in which he said: "As a just and holy man, you must want to keep misunderstandings between nations to a minimum."