Politically, I think Tim Kaine’s rapid response to Kilgore’s charge that he’s a tax and spend liberal is smart. But the execution of the ad can do him more harm than good.

Calling your opponent a liar, as Kilgore’s GOP front group did and Kaine’s similar response also did, is a well-worn political tactic. Yes, some people will be swayed by Kilgore’s charge; after all, a lot of people bought the Swift Boat charges even though they were soundly refuted. Even if they knew the charge was bogus, it gave some a rationale for voting against Kerry. They didn’t so much believe the charges against Kerry as they were still angry at anti-war protesters in general. So in a sense, lying works.

Kaine’s ad is OK as it starts, accusing Kilgore of distorting his record. By Kilgore’s reasoning if a politician cut sales taxes one cent but somebody bought 10 times as much stuff, then their taxes went up. It’s silly arguing whether a tax rate cut is or isn’t a real tax “cut.”

But then Kaine wastes the last seconds of the ad saying as governor he’ll cut taxes “for all Virginians.” One, let’s forget that he hasn’t offered anything that would accomplish that. His property tax plan would be dependent on local jurisdictions and a constitutional amendment. If enacted, most localities would probably offer tax relief based on income, age or assets.

But he also sounds like he could be saying, “Oh yes, I would cut taxes, you liar, liar, pants on fire!”

Why not say something like, “The fact is I did cut property tax rates as mayor of Richmond, but more importantly, my policies resulted in a prolonged rebirth of the city based on reasonable taxes and sound investments, just like Gov. Warner and I have done the past four years for the Commonwealth. Unlike what you’ll hear from my opponent, you’ll get no irresponsible assertions that I’ll fix transportation, education and health care but cut all your taxes at the same time. That’s not leadership, that’s pandering.”

But alas, Kaine tries to out-pander Kilgore. Moderate Republicans want desperately to back someone who’ll continue Warner’s approach. I don’t see how Kaine’s approach accomplishes that.