Those who decry the ever-increasing criticism of President George W. Bush all too often claim hate drives those who disagree with his war in Iraq or his other actions in the White House.

Some who find fault with the President defend their criticism as payback for the bitter and personal campaign that Republicans waged against former President Bill Clinton and his wife (now Senator) Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And, yes, some of the campaign against the Clintons came from hate just as some of the barbs now directed at Bush spring from personal animosity.

Unfortunately, hate is all too pervasive in modern American politics (as well as many other parts of life) and hate is a two-way street.

Visit most conservative computer bulletin boards (like Free Republic) and you will find gobs of hate directed at Democrats in general and John F. Kerry in particular. Then venture over to a left-leaning board like Democratic Underground and you will find pretty much the same rhetoric directed at Republicans and George W. Bush.

Reasoned political debate is a lost commodity in America, replaced by shouting and invectives. We all fall into the trap of resorting to name calling when it comes to politics.

But neither side of the political spectrum can claim the moral high ground.

To date, President Bush’s re-election campaign has run 49,050 negative television and radio ads in the top 100 broadcast markets – 75 percent of the campaign’s total ads. Since the advent of broadcast political advertising, no incumbent President before Bush has ever run so many ads attacking his opponent (by comparison Kerry’s campaign has run 13,336 negative ads – 27 percent of his total broadcast campaign).

Bush’s negative barrage destroys the previous record of incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign against Barry Goldwater by an astounding 457 percent!

And, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, three-quarters of the Bush attacks against Kerry are either dead wrong or highly misleading (as are about half of Kerry’s ads against Bush).

While the sheer volume of negative ads might be surprising, especially coming from the man who once called himself a “compassionate conservative,” the domination of misinformation in a national political campaign is not.

Disinformation is a fact of life in politics. Those who practice politics for a living call it “spin.” Honest people call it lying through your teeth.

Add hate to the rising tide of lies and you quickly understand why an increasing number of voting-age Americans tell pollsters they may stay home in November because they are disgusting with the current system for choosing our nation’s leaders.

They should be disgusted. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing right-wing hate mongers like Michael Savage telling homosexuals to “shut up and die” or left-wing propagandists like Michael Moore saying National Rifle Association members should be killed with their own guns.

Take a hard look at the misinformation spewed out by the Sean Hannitys, Rush Limbaughs, Al Frankens or Michael Moores and you see why those who follow their rants can’t make an informed decision.

I’ve had partisans from both the right and the left tell me they only read or listen to those whose political bias matches their own. How can anyone truly understand what is happening in the world when their only source of news comes from admittedly biased sources?

And how can either side of this debacle keep a straight face when they accuse the other side of preaching misinformation and hate?

The next time someone from either the right or the left accuses the other side of the of preaching hate, don’t waste your trying to reason with them. Just shake your head and walk away.

In American politics, the only thing more pervasive than hate is pure, old-fashioned, bald-faced hypocrisy.