I was going to try and put this in some other thread, but I couldn't really find any that applied.
This article was, I thought, really funny, and pretty well on the mark. It's a little hard to fairly compare the negative ads of Bush and Kerry, just because Bush has so many more of them at this point, but here's a critique of his last ad buy.
30 Seconds Over Washington
The Bush-Kerry air war begins.
By William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004, at 2:57 PM PT
President Bush in "Forward"
"Forward" and "100 Days" were produced for the Bush campaign by Maverick Media. "Misleading America" was produced for the Kerry campaign by Riverfront Media/GMMB & SDD. To watch "Forward" and "100 Days" on the Bush campaign Web site, click here. To read the texts, click here. To watch "Misleading America" on the Kerry campaign Web site, click here. To read the text, click here.
From: William Saletan
To: Jacob Weisberg
Bush's new ads, "Forward" and "100 Days," reinforce the pattern we saw in his first three ads. Namely, this is a president who thinks good intentions are more important than good results, except where the other guy's good intentions are concerned.
"Forward" delivers the positive half of the message. It starts with Bush's reassuring twinkle as he tells us everything will be OK. "We can go forward with confidence, resolve, and hope," he says, as we see a girl bounding happily toward the horizon of a landscape that appears to be the Windows XP default desktop background. Lest anyone miss the key words, they follow the girl on the screen: "Confidence. Resolve. Hope." Why these words? Because they require no evidence. You can resolve to make things better, hope that they will get better, and have confidence that they will get better, even when things aren't getting better. In fact, confidence, resolve, and hope are precisely what a president has to ask you for when he has nothing tangible to show you.
As images of American soldiers and guardsmen flash across the screen, Bush asserts that the alternative to this rosy outlook is to "turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat." Again, the language betrays Bush's psychosis. An "illusion," as he defines it, is a vague misunderstanding of the world in general, as opposed to a verifiable misjudgment of something concrete, such as Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. Also, according to Bush's operational definition, if Kerry says terrorists are plotting and outlaw regimes are a threat (as he has said) and Bush says Kerry thinks terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat, it's Kerry, not Bush, who suffers from an "illusion."
Next, we see two hardhats and a welder at work, as Bush tells us he will "continue to work to create jobs." A president who had created jobs could pledge simply to "continue to create jobs." Bush has to pledge to "continue to work to create" them, because he's nearly 3 million jobs in the red. That's the fourth thing we're supposed to do in the face of all this failure: hope, be confident, be resolute, and keep working at it.
Bush carries the good-intentions theme into his attack ad, "100 Days." The ad describes the Patriot Act as a law "used to arrest terrorists and protect America." The act's failure to produce verifiable results in this endeavor doesn't matter. The important thing is that this is what it's "used" for. But when it comes to Kerry, good intentions become irrelevant. "John Kerry's plan: To pay for new government spending, raise taxes by at least $900 billion," says the ad's female announcer. On the screen, the words "John Kerry's Plan" appear alongside the words, "Taxes Increase at Least $900 Billion."
Now, we could have an honest debate about whether Kerry's health insurance proposal will cost $900 billion. But that isn't what the ad says. It says raising taxes by at least $900 billion is Kerry's "plan." And that's a flat-out lie. Kerry has lots of ways to avoid raising taxes. He could, for example, simply add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, as Bush has done. That would be a lousy result, not a plan. But it's hard to make Kerry's hypothetical results look worse than Bush's real ones.
"100 Days" also claims that Kerry's "plan" is "to delay defending America until the United Nations approved." The text on the screen short-hands this as "Delay Defending America." As evidence for this claim, the press release accompanying the ad cites Kerry's statements about the Iraq war. But as everyone now knows—or at least, everyone but Bush now knows—the Iraq war, whatever else its merits, wasn't necessary to defend America, since Bush's claims about Iraqi WMD were false. Therefore, the ad's characterization of Kerry's position on defending America is false as well.
Kerry's response ad, "Misleading America," is less dishonest than Bush's ads but just as vapid in its avoidance of policy consequences. "John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion dollar tax increase," says the male announcer as the screen displays headlines backing him up. "He wants to cut taxes for the middle class." Again, notice the wishful language. Of course Kerry hasn't "called for" a trillion-dollar tax hike. Of course he "wants" to cut middle-class taxes. Tax hikes happen despite what politicians "want" and "call for." What does Kerry have to say about the cost of his health insurance proposal and how he's going to pay for it? Nothing. His message to Bush is: If you want to make good intentions and extravagant promises the centerpiece of this campaign, bring it on.
From: Jacob Weisberg
To: William Saletan
You've pointed out the main deceptions in these ads. Bush's are way worse than Kerry's. As you say, it's not merely misleading, but an outright lie for the president to assert that Kerry wants to "raise taxes by at least $900 billion," for the simple reason that Kerry hasn't made that proposal. (If spending money implies finding revenue to cover it, then Bush wants to raise taxes by $900 billion, too.) It's an even balder lie to say Kerry didn't want to "defend America" because he supported asking for U.N. approval before the Iraq war. Leaving aside the larger question of whether invading Iraq had anything to do with defending America, Kerry actually voted to give Bush the power to go to war unilaterally, whether or not the United Nations agreed.
Kerry's ad, by contrast, is merely misleading. How can Kerry cut taxes for the middle class, pass a big new health care bill, and reduce the deficit? He can't, of course. He'll have to choose among these goals, just as Bill Clinton did after winning office on a similar triad in 1993. But that doesn't mean Kerry is fibbing by saying he wants to do all three things. He's just being, shall we say, a tad unrealistic.
As others have noted, these early ads represent an unprecedented level of aggression for this stage of a presidential election and augur a pretty vicious campaign. That kind of battle presents pitfalls for both sides. For Bush, the problem seems to me one of cognitive dissonance. The president wants to present himself as an affable candidate of optimism and hope, as highlighted in the ads we discussed last time, as well as in "Forward." At the same time, in "100 Days," he's pandering to fear of terrorism (cue anonymous swarthy visage giving us the evil eye) and sticking the shiv in his opponent for being squishy on national security and wanting more "big government," which Bush seemingly defines as more government spending paid for by revenues as opposed to borrowing.
There are two historical models pulling in opposite directions here. The positive model is Ronald Reagan's 1984 "Morning in America" campaign. The negative model is Bush's dad's "Pledge of Allegiance" campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988. Can the younger Bush whistle both tunes at once? To some extent, the nasty message seems likely to undermine the uplifting one. Nice guys don't knife their opponents in dark alleys. And under the new campaign-finance law, Bush has to appear and say he approves of the negative attacks being broadcast in his name. The larger risk is that instead of a version of the GOP's winning 1984 or 1988 campaigns, Bush will end up re-enacting his father's clumsy 1992 re-election effort—a positive-negative hybrid that didn't achieve uplift and didn't bite.
For Kerry, there's a related risk—that in trying to prove he's no patsy, he will fail to present himself to voters who don't know him very well as a forward-looking, optimistic leader. For the Democrats, the two most relevant models seem to be the failed Dukakis campaign—which stands as a lesson about passivity in the face of right-wing attack—and Clinton's 1992 campaign, which was predominantly positive in spirit and emphasized "change." (Kerry's Clintonesque slogan: "John Kerry: A New Direction for America.") But even more than with Bush, whose sunny personality is well-established, Kerry's daggers threaten to obscure his grin. It will be difficult for Kerry to represent a positive new direction when he defines himself largely negatively, by swatting at his opponent.
Of course, elections are not zero-sum games. So if both sides stay negative for the next eight months, who suffers more? Generally speaking, negativity is thought to turn voters off and thereby reduce turnout. One might assume that a low-turnout election would help the GOP, since Republicans start from a slightly larger threshold of support. But I'm not sure that assumption will hold true this time. Bush's lies on television could fuel an already angry Democratic base. And if Bush is sufficiently hated, Kerry may not have to be loved.
Tigerjez and I did a little tit-for-tat in which she repeated the administration line backing off the "immediate threat" and "WMD certainty" and all that stuff. MoveOn.org is running a VERY effective ad to that effect.
A good site if you're into the media war aspect of politics is http://www.bushout.tv/ It's obviously a very biased site, but it's a great link library sort of place (to biased as well as unbiased sources, and the ads themselves, though I can't find a comprehensive mpeg database of them yet, just the gwu script site above, still working on it though).
From everything I've read, none of Bush's ads are homeruns, but by the sheer volume of them they're having at least some effect, though considering the 10 million dollar a week average so far, not nearly as much effect as one would expect. Kerry has so far only released one ad, which also isn't a homerun, and isn't getting nearly the airplay any single of Bush's 6 ads have. But, it's pretty much impossible for Bush to spend that much money on ads and not get some boost. I expect his numbers to start rising in the swing markets by 3-6% or so. I don't know how effective MoveOn.orgs ads were, though. And, Kerry warchest is starting to catch up. Whereas Bush spent 10 million in the last 10 days, Kerry made that much in online contributions.
i would much rather see kerry and his team lightly deflect the outright lies, yet keep the rest of their messages as positive as possible. they need to outline their platform in specifics that are easy for everyone to understand, and offer up a positive outlook and lots of confidence in their programs. people have been inundated with negativity from bush since 9/11- fearmongering, there's a terrorist in every big city hotel taking flight lessons, buy duct tape and plastic sheeting today, oh wait, now saddam hussein is on the verge of practically being able to attack america... it's ridiculous how much fear and negativity this administration has used to control the masses over the past three years. people will respond to a positive, confident, and semi-realistic alternative. kerry just needs to be smart and lay off the urge to lambast bush in every advert from now till the campaign. there'll be plenty of time and opportunity to stick it to the administration after laying the groundworks of a positive campaign first.
MoveOn.org (anti-Bush): 3,651; $3,184,203
The Media Fund (anti-Bush): 2,124; $2,061,101
Log Cabin GOPers (pro-gay marriage): 34; $69,103
Citizens United (anti-Kerry): 34; $25,420
New Dem Network (pro-Dem, Spanish-language ads): 69; $13,294
quote:Reuters:article Bush Campaign Ad Hits Kerry with His Own Words By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush sought on Thursday to paint Democratic White House candidate John Kerry as indecisive, in a new television advertisement that features a clip of the Massachusetts senator talking about Iraq just two days earlier.
In a new example of the early rhetorical brawling that has marked this year's campaign, the Bush camp pounced on Kerry's explanation of a vote against Bush's request last year for $87 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The commercial is slated to run on cable stations across the country. It includes a clip of Kerry telling an audience on Tuesday, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it."
The ad closes with the words: "John Kerry: Wrong on Defense."
The broader context of Kerry's remark -- made in response to an earlier Bush ad -- was his explanation that he supported a version of the $87 billion funding proposal for Iraq that would have paid for it by repealing of Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy. But when that amendment failed, Kerry voted against the bill.
The Republican president has been hammering Kerry for opposing that money, despite his 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, in an effort to portray him as dangerously weak and inconsistent on security issues.
Both candidates are trying to tout their credentials on national security and defense, amid the continuing U.S. war on global terrorism and instability in post-war Iraq.
Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, campaigned this week among fellow veterans and Bush on Thursday visited troops at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
"John Kerry opposed a red-inked, blank check on Bush's failed Iraq policy," Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said in a statement responding to the ad, which he called "misleading."
Kerry has said that one of his concerns about the funding bill was that the Bush administration had not done enough to enlist international help with the Iraq operation.
The Kerry quotation is the same one ridiculed by Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday in aggressively attacking the four-term Massachusetts senator's voting record.
With the exception of the new quote, the rest of the nationwide advertisement is the similar to one released in West Virginia this week in which a narrator listed such things as body armor and health care for soldiers and suggested Kerry had voted against those when he opposed the $87 billion.
"The same misleading ads that the Bush/Cheney campaign dumped on the people of West Virginia, they are now dumping on the Nation," Meehan said. "The three weeks in a row of Bush misleading TV ads, and millions in cash, can't hide George Bush's record of broken promises and misleading America."
god damn, talk about misleading the people and taking a quote wildly out of context.
Bush's ads have all been for the most part wildly unfair, but that means little if they sink in.
The problem that I see is he really risks a backlash if he keeps getting negative earned media. Bush & co are working under the assumption that the American public are generally pretty stupid and uninformed, and will just take at face value what they're told.
It remains to be seen if they're right. They may well be.
One thing that's odd to me about the Bush negative ads is that it's not like there's an absence of potentially damaging things in Kerry's voting record and rhetoric to nail him on. Why go for the things that are blatantly factually incorrect by any stanards and thus which have the potential to backfire on them, as some already have? Why not go for the black and white things, like Kerry voting against the first Gulf War instead of representations of grey areas that are, at best, misleading? That doesn't make sense to me. Bush and company could use Kerry's record and make the exact same arguments--Kerry is wishy-washy, Kerry has a questionable voting record on national security and foreign policy issues, etc--without having to use flimsy examples that are obviously misleading and easily refuted? Are they saving that stuff for later and just testing the waters to see how far they can go? I honestly don't get it.
Last edited by Paint CHiPs on 03-19-2004 at 05:46 AM
quote:Originally posted by Paint CHiPs Why not go for the black and white things, like Kerry voting against the first Gulf War instead of representations of grey areas that are, at best, misleading?
they went after that as well, cheney was giving a speech right when the mount lebanon hotel was bombed. cnn made it a split screen, on the left cheney was explaining that kerry voted against funding for several military systems which are allowing us to keep iraq safe and secure... with a picture of the aftermath of the mount lebanon hotel bombing on the other half of the screen. he summed it up with something along the lines of:
if john kerry was in control, saddam hussein would still be in power in iraq, and actually, if he had been in power in 91, saddam would likely be in control of kuwait too!
all this with the mount lebanon bombing presented on the other half of the screen. comedy central's daily show showed the footage tonight. it was horrifically and sadly hilarious.
quote: That doesn't make sense to me. Bush and company could use Kerry's record and make the exact same arguments--Kerry is wishy-washy, Kerry has a questionable voting record on national security and foreign policy issues, etc--without having to use flimsy examples that are obviously misleading and easily refuted? Are they saving that stuff for later and just testing the waters to see how far they can go? I honestly don't get it.
i agree. kerry ain't that great, but the way they're attacking him is fucking retarded. they're attacking the only places where he's actually strong in my opinion.
quote:Originally posted by Paint CHiPs Tigerjez and I did a little tit-for-tat in which she repeated the administration line backing off the "immediate threat" and "WMD certainty" and all that stuff. MoveOn.org is running a VERY effective ad to that effect.
In case you consider that unfair to Rumsfield, here is the unedited version of that interview. You'll notice no difference, save the textual citations for what's being spoken being provided by MoveOn.
That was most amusing. Either Rumsfeld really doesn't remember what he says (but one would think that, given the high importance of the policy positions that he espouses, they would be memorable for him) or else he just assumes that everyone is stupid.
Is Kerry running any complilation of the changing position of the administration as regards Iraq?
Remind me to never put "correlation" into google ever, ever again.
Short answer from me, science aside, is that I don't know if there is a direct correlation or not, but it's across the board accepted that campaign ads help, and the more of them there are the more it helps.
But, there are all kinds of media strategies based on how much what kind of ads and where and when etc etc etc help. For example, Bush, it seems, isn't getting nearly as much bang for his buck as he'd like (getting +3% in Florida after dumping 20 million dollars there isn't particularly uplifting), and some ads can backfire and work against a candidate. Also, ads often get what's called "earned media", which I reference a lot, which essentially means that the ads get talked about and run for free on other media outlets. This played to Bush's advantage early on when he released those internet ads which never even made it to market, but which got, for an entire week, plastered across cable news, basically run for free. However, in the last couple of weeks, he started earning NEGATIVE media with his ads. I.e. he pays 15 million dollars to release a bunch of ads showing 9-11 imagery in an attempt to increase his positives, and instead he gets twice as much coverage on "is Bush an asshole for using 9-11 images in his ads?" Bush is somewhat bouncing back lately in that regard, btw. Kerry, by contrast, hasn't been getting much earned media one way or the other on his stuff, which is bad because it means those dollars spent on ads have to work extra hard, but is also good, as he hasn't been taking any beatings for them so when they run, they don't have any particularly negative spin to them.
Eh, but I digress. I'll stop here lest I launch into a diatribe on media strategies (again).
So, ads help, and there is a science to them, but there is also an art to them as well (any advertising agency will tell you that). The Bush team seems to have the science well down (nobody's ever said that Rove doesn't have an eye for details) but some, including myself, might argue that at this point they don't have much art to them. If I were on Bush's team, right now I would be working my ass off to get Karen Hughes back (she's off writing a book or something), because she was a critical component of Bush's advertising success in 2000 and her lack of presence is playing out pretty obviously. Rove has all the Machiavelli, Hughes has all the Michelangelo, and their media team just doesn't operate the same without her.
I liked the Electoral College Strategy for placing ads. And, of course, placing ads in the right programs. There's a lot to it, that's for sure. And, as you said, some of the ads can backfire and hurt the candidate.
I have a feeling that if ads ran that simply said over and over again "Vote for Bush".... "Vote for Bush".... "Vote for Bush", with nothing else, that there would be no difference in the outcome (versus the candidate running sophisticated ads). People are really funny that way.
Every night David Letterman runs hysterical clips mocking President Bush. They show him falling, spitting, using the wrong hand, being totally disengaged from the person who is talking to him, etc. etc. etc. And I'll bet that those clips don't hurt him one bit.
I think it boils down to familiarity... versus substance.
I read an interesting article the other day called "How to Waste 40 Million Dollars" regarding Bush's ad spending so far. They certainly haven't been having the desired effect, and even their few points gained in swing states has self-corrected due to Iraq stuff. In response, the White House has decided to scale back their advertising for now, because they can't compete with the Iraq and 9-11 news. Kerry, on the other hand, is about ready to start his first major ad blitz. The financial disparity between the two campaigns is starting to sew up a little.
quote:Originally posted by philjit As a general observation doesn't it annoy people when politicians decide to tell you what the other side will do?
Generally, politicians aren't annoying: They are lying, evil fucks getting high on murder, war and corruption.
I think when you are starting to ask if politicians are annoying, thats when you have had their dicks up your ass for too long.