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January 14, 2004

Nice Ad, Dumb Message

Sheila Lennon promotes the results of the anti-Bush-ad contest on her Providence Journal blog today. It cannot be denied that the winning ad is very well done, makes its point cleverly, and taps into an aspect of the Bush presidency about which I, personally, am not particularly happy: the budget. Charlie Fisher, the ad's creator, certainly deserved his award.

That said, I can't help but think that a great deal of talent has been wasted on a dubious message. The spot features children working blue-collar jobs, with the message that they are doing so to pay off the debt with which Bush has saddled them. Leaving aside the fact that the legislature controls the purse, the message is one that ought to be a bit difficult for anybody with a political memory of more than four years to take these days.

When Clinton was racing against President Bush's father, the media was full of a similar message about the deficit that future generations would have to pay. Yet, with a surge in the economy, that deficit turned into a surplus. The current deficit is too high, of course, and I'd like for President Bush to break out the red pen more often during his second term, but it's still disappointing that deficit rhetoric, at the tail end of an economic downturn, would be the subject of such polished grandstanding.

Nonetheless, all of the other ads were much worse in the extent to which they substituted simplified polemic for substantive commentary. None of the winners, thankfully, reached the level of those Nazi ads, but their spirit was there, as Margaret Cho illustrated by declaring:

George Bush is not Hitler. He would be if he fu--ing applied himself.

According to Drudge, the comment received "big, extended applause." Funny how Ms. Lennon, who has explained her role at the Projo to me as pointing out in the new media what her readers might not have seen in the old, didn't mention Drudge's direct transcript clips, linking instead to some glossed and adoring coverage from liberal sources. (I've offered to blog for the Projo — you know, to provide some balance and to give its readers a view into the other half of the Internet — but they declined.)

As for Mr. Fisher's ad, if he would just tweak it a bit to direct its ire at Big Government, generally, or the progressive movements that have made two-income families a necessity, it would be brilliant.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 14, 2004 8:14 PM