Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary Channels Reagan: "There's A Bear In the Woods. Some People Say It's Tame..."

Hillary Clinton's new campaign ad airing in Texas, which uses Bush/Cheney/Rovian tactics to scare voters into voting for her, should be enough to make everyone vote against her. Haven't we had enough fearmongering from the Bushies? Do we really want another President who will amp up the color-coded "be very very afraid" warning to Code Flashing Bright Red just before her next election? I don't think so.

But at least her ad -- and Obama's responding ad, which shows how much he learned from John Kerry's error in not swiftly rebutting Swiftboaters like Clinton -- give us the chance to do two things:

First, it lets us see Hillary's campaign for what it is -- a desperate effort to demoralize us into being afraid to take a chance on change, borrowing heavily from Karl Rove's "politics of fear" tactics and, especially, borrowing most heavily from another hawkish conservative, Ronald Reagan.

Second, it allows us to compare apples to apples by looking at two political commercials, first Hillary's attack, then Barack's truthful and measured response, and decide which candidate's approach we like best. Let's take these in turn:

First: Hillary Clinton ♥ Ronald Reagan (and Bush/Cheney). In the 1984 Presidential campaign, the candidates disagreed about how big a threat the USSR was. Then the Reagan-Bush campaign ran this famous ad, "Bear In The Woods", invoking American's fear of the Soviet Union (whose symbol was a bear):

As it turned out (and the CIA itself sheepishly admitted), the Soviet bear actually was tame, and collapsed under the weight of its own failings shortly afterward. But Reagan's "Bear" ad helped him win re-election, because it made people afraid to vote for change.

In 2004, Bush/Cheney copied Reagan's theme, updated to reflect terrorism as the new enemy, in their ad, "Wolves":

Now compare Reagan's and Bush/Cheney's fearmongering with Hillary's ad, "Children" (aka "3:00 AM"), aired in Texas early today:

Now ask: is Clinton appealing to your reason, or to your fear? Is she addressing a legitimate issue in a responsible way -- or channeling the spirit of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney?

Second: Who's Better Qualified to Answer the Red Phone, Clinton or Obama? Next, let's compare Hillary's attack ad (above) with Obama's response, "Ringing," prepared with lightning speed and released today (the same day as Clinton's ad!):

By the way, in case you're still thinking that Hillary "Experience" Clinton actually has answered the red phone to deal with a foreign policy emergency in the middle of the night -- her own campaign essentially says, um... no, actually, she hasn't. (H/T Yglesias.) So I'd say Obama's good judgment trumps Clinton's poor judgment on Iraq, given that neither one has ever been President before.

Finally, three questions (OK, three sets of questions):

1) Which candidate losing, flailing, and on the attack, and which candidate is responding with toughness, truth -- and class?

2) If Obama wins the nomination, do you think Clinton's ad will hurt his chances of winning against war hero John McCain? If so, what does that say about Hillary's commitment to the party and the country? Is she mainly interested in what's best for all of us, or just in winning for herself?

3) Democrats want a nominee who can actually win in November. Clinton claims she knows how to run a campaign, fight tough opponents -- and that those skills carry over into how she'll run the White House. But which candidate is flailing around, reaching back two decades to find dirty tricks in hopes of salvaging a victory, and which candidate is running an effective, efficient, on-message campaign -- managing money well, planning ahead, responding quickly and appropriately to attacks, and generally showing the kind of leadership and toughness we expect both in a candidate and in a President?

Relevant news stories from Time, Time again, CNN, CNN again. The Wall Street Journal reaches back, not to Reagan's 1984 "bear" ad, but to LBJ's 1964 "Daisy" ad -- almost as if the conservative paper now owned by Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, who threw Hillary a campaign fundraiser two years ago, doesn't want to admit that she's its preferred candidate, and is much more conservative than she pretends to be. Update, 3/1: NYTimes articles here and here; the Washington Post on the "dueling ads" here; and another Wall Street Journal piece here. Second update, 3/1: D'oh! Of course, Hillary's ad is almost identical to a 1984 Walter Mondale ad, "Red Phone," which isn't surprising since the same MadMan (adman) produced both ads. That doesn't change the Clinton ad's nature -- using the same fear-based campaigning as Reagan and Bush. It's also interesting that the same Hillary Clinton who criticized Obama for sharing the same speechwriter, and therefore similar language, as his friend Deval Patrick, turned around and hired the same adman as Walter Mondale used 24 years ago, to produce a similar ad. That's hypocrisy. And I'll also ask: hiring an adman from the 1980s to reprise a 24 year old smear ad? This is the "forward looking" candidate Clinton claims to be? Yow.


Servant said...

I want the smart person answering the phone. If ain't obvious who that is by now ... we're doomed.

Great article. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Eight years ago, Al Gore was portrayed in the media and accordingly among everyday people as being boring, dry and too caught up in the details. As a country just coming off some of the best years this country has seen and a national deficit surplus, Americans were pretty spoiled. We didn't want details or to be "brought down". Al Gore's statements regarding issues like global warming, international relations and domestic economy were not ones that we wanted to consider. Instead, we (or at least enough people to make him the president) liked George Bush because he seemed nice, funny and amiable. He didn't talk much about issues and most of the country seemed to recognize that he did not have the experience necessary to be the president and yet, he seemed to connect with voters and thus, his lack of experience was overlooked. Americans did this again in 2004 despite four relatively miserable years. George Bush spent his 2004 presidential campaign stumping for votes in front of large crowds. He drew huge audiences and said things like "9-11" and "terrorism" over and over with great applause each time. People seemed willing to overlook his mistakes because they were caught up in the emotion of what he was saying. Emotion seemed to carry him all the way to the White House for another four more years.

Many of us felt sick after the election in 2000 and the same number contemplated moving out of the country in 2004. However, hopes of a new begining in 2008 kept us from jumping ship. Now, four years later, I look at what is happening with Obama and Clinton and I can't believe that it's actually happening again. This time around, the Republican seem to have it straight in that they have finally found value in John McCain (who has been their valuable candidate all along). What McCain brings to the table is experience and in a country that is so out of whack, we need his experience. On the Democrat side, we have one very experienced candidate who has a long history of being successful in the government. On the other side, we have a candidate who, like George Bush, is great on the stump, but lacks experience and has yet to lay out any real plan as to how he plans to initiate all this "change" that he talks about. He draws large audiences who cheer wildly as he repeats words like "Yes we can" and "I voted against the war in Iraq". Again, Obama seems like a very nice, funny and charismatic guy. But, once again, he lacks what I want in a president. Most importantly, he lacks the experience he needs to take on one of the most challenging presidential offices in the history of this country. He has very little experience working for the government and if you think that doesn't matter, consider that George Bush came to office with more experience than Obama.

While Obama's idealism is nice, it's unrealistic. This is the very reason why he appeals to young people and highly educated college graduates. These two populations are no doubt the most idealistic of the bunch. Young people find their idealism fueled by the very simple fact that they haven't had enough life experience to make them realize that if it were really that easy to make things great, it would have been done a long time ago. However, the reality of the "real world" is that it's hard to make things work and it takes an enormous amount of dedication and commitment to be successful. Obama's other large group, successful college graduates are also known for being realistic. I remember working in social services armed with all the book knowledge necessary to solve the problems of the poor and down trodden. It didn't take long for me to realize that all that book knowledge wasn't going to do a bit of good, as the problems are a lot more complex than can be outlined in a book. Well off college graduates are likely not working in social services, as they wouldn't be able to fall in to that $100,000 plus category. On the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton running as the experienced candidate who, unlike Obama, has outlined all of her plans when she becomes the president. She has a long history of being successful and has actually been in the White House before. These would seem really beneficial qualities considering the mess that the next president will inherit. She's not the rock star that Obama has been portrayed as and neither was Gore. Instead, she's solid, dependable and says the things that need to be said versus what we all want to here. She's pragmatic and appeals to the seasoned adult and those living without the fringe benefits of privelage in society. Unfortunately, she has lost the Black vote, which was always a steady for her until she ran against a Black person. In this society that is controlled by media hype and a fundamental need to be attached to glitter and glam, it seems that many people can barely stomach the idea of going with a candidate who will actually solve the problems of this country. It's like this need to be on the side of fun and cool is a drug for Americans. Even if it drags us into the gutter, we're going for it over and over because at least we don't have to face reality in doing so. Meanwhile, our ship is sinking and we are about ready to drown, but at least we'll do so without knowing it's going to happen, right?

For those of us who don't want to be on the sinking ship, we are working desperately to get people to wake up. We all want to hear about how great things are going to be, but the reality is that we need to know how that change is going to occur. I saw this advertisement by Obama saying something about how people weren't voting for him to make a difference, they were voting for themselves to do so. I thought, "But I don't know how to end the war in Iraq. I also don't know how to address the tanking economy or the skyrocketing national debt. That's why I'm voting for a president who can do that. Please don't put this on me, I'm not ready to be the president." I appreciate Obama's attempt to make people feel personally responsible, but he's the one who would need to do whatever necessary to make the changes. For the first time in my life, I may vote Republican if Obama wins the Democratic ticket and for me, that is not easy to do. I am a lifelong Democratic voter. However, I don't want to suffer for four more years because we voted in another person who has no idea how to run a country. As a mixed ethnicity woman, I can say firmly that I'll vote for McCain if the alternative is another four years of incompetence in the White House. I just hope it doesn't come down to that because Hillary Clinton is still in this race and she has everything we could possibley want in a candidate and a history of not letting her constituents down.

Anonymous said...

Bill Clinton supports Barack Obama. Look what he said about voting for hope and logic instead of fear. And now his "wife" is running fear mongering ads.

Anonymous said...

Here's the real animosity...

check out this video of Barak and Hillary

mb said...

Obama's resume is thin -- and that's obvious when supporters have to talk about his record at law school, a strategy appropriate for first-year job seekers but scarcely for presidential candidates. His eight-year career in the Illinois Senate is lackluster, marred by voting "present" 129 times, thereby avoiding the difficult choice of "yes" or "no" on proposed legislation.

Even his 70 percent vote margin in his 2004 U. S. Senate bid cries for a downgrade. He defeated a GOP nobody, perennial candidate for public office, Alan Keyes, who took over the candidacy after the real winner of the primary stepped aside as a result of a sex scandal.

Nor do campaign stops provide concise specifics about his proposals, more akin as they are to celebrity, touchy-feely, anything-I-say-is-OK performances. His safe-harbor, oratorical retreat ("and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America") is overused and overvalued. As for Obama's lifting sentences from other speakers, at a minimum that illustrates laziness.

mb said...

*The biased, slanted media continues to push B.O. and slam Senator Clinton. CNN spews the worst garbage, followed by FOX and MSNBC. Every effort to try to help Obama gain the nomination. Pure bias. They should be censored. Clinton is clearly denigrated in the press/tv talking heads while the freshman senator B.O. is praised. Clinton is the most qualified to lead this nation in foreign policy anddomestic issues. B.O. is all talk and no substance. Go Hilliary, in spite of the biased press you will get the nomination. Hillary for pres in 08.

Anonymous said...

Responding to some of MB's comments, which are standard Clinton talking points but which don't stand up to real scrutiny:

Obama's resume is thin -- and that's obvious when supporters have to talk about his record at law school

I haven't heard anyone talk about his law school record, other than to mention that he was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review -- and any lawyer will tell you that to become editor of any law review, let alone Harvard's, is a tremendous accomplishment requiring perfect grades, faculty recommendations, superb writing, anal-retentive attention to detail, and good self-marketing. As to the claim that his record is thin: he has much more experience, and years, in public service than HRC has. While she was working in a private law firm and serving on the board of WalMart, and later as First Lady (which isn't the same as "co-President"; can you see Laura Bush answering the red phone?), Obama was turning down a Wall Street job offer to work as a community organizer, Constitutional law professor, and civil rights attorney. He also has many more years experience in elected office than Clinton: she has a sum total of six years in public office (U.S. Senate), he has nine(Illinois State Legislator from 1997 to 2004, U.S. Senator from then to the present). They're a little buried, but you'll find them in this post

marred by voting "present" 129 times, thereby avoiding the difficult choice of "yes" or "no" on proposed legislation

You don't understand the rules of the Illinois state legislature, which (unlike the US Senate) allow "present" votes, not to let legislators dodge controversial issues but as strategic tools. For instance, if Legislator 1 introduces a bill, and Legislator 2 plans to vote for it but introduces an amendment that Leg 1 doesn't really like, then Leg 1 often will vote "present" on the amendment vote, indicating non-support but also not alienating Leg 2. It's politics, but not dishonest or unusual politics. Anyway, out of over 2,000 votes in the Illinois leg, Obama voted "present" 129 times? That's not much. If Hillary had as much legislative experience as Obama does, she's have at least as many.

Nor do campaign stops provide concise specifics about his proposals

Obama has addressed this one directly, explaining that "on the stump" giving a speech isn't the right time to drone on about the details of his policies. But he has released detailed policy papers on his economic plan, his healthcare plan, his plan for managing Iraq, etc. You can go to the Issues section of his website, read a summary, then scroll down to the bottom and for most of them, find a .pdf link with more policy-wonk details about his plans. Don't mistake good oratory for lack of substance; Obama has both.

As for Obama's lifting sentences from other speakers, at a minimum that illustrates laziness.

This one's downright funny once you know the facts. Obama's friend, Duval Patrick, told him he had a good line on an issue Obama was addressing, and offered to let him use it. That's not a big deal. How does that compare to Hillary? Well, to start with, her campaign held a press conference to accuse Obama of plagiarism one day, then held a press conference the next day to deny that they had accused him of plagiarism. Then, in the same debate where she accused Obama of lifting lines from other people's speeches, she herself lifted TWO lines from other people's speeches. Next, even after it was revealed that she'd lifted those lines from others, she proceeded to turn one of them into a campaign ad, again without admitting it wasn't hers. And now, for her "red phone" attack ad, she hired the same ad man to recreate an almost identical commercial used by Walter Mondale in the 1984 Democratic primary (see the update at the bottom of this post). In my book, that makes her not just "lazy" (your word), but hypocritical and dishonest.

The biased, slanted media continues to push B.O. and slam Senator Clinton.

Then why did supposedly neutral moderator Tim Russert hammer, and hammer, and hammer Obama with accusations that he was somehow tied to Farrakhan and therefore implicitly either Muslim or anti-Semitic?

Hillary talks trash against Obama, but so far I haven't seen anything to support her claims. And Obama hasn't had Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch throwing him campaign fundraisers!!

Pelican1 said...

Hiya, Pelican here. Just posted your comment on my blog over at Independents Unbound.

Just got through reading your blog and I think we are of like mind as much as we need to be to join forces.

Being an independent by choice not out of disinterest, my concern is the country and, yes, the world. I have no concern for political parties, especially when there are only two, so by definition mean nothing, really. A multi-party system would be more honest, if nothing else.

Hillary is one of the smartest politicians we have had in congress. But she is a policy wonk. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. We need policy people, who can write good policy that is clear and understandable to the people; no hidden agendas.

But a policy wonk is not what we need right now. I hope I don't offend here, but Hillary couldn't inspire me to get out of bed in the morning. We, the people, need someone who can really inspire us all who have the well-being of the nation and her people at heart and who also realize that waiting for entrenched Washington to think outside the box and lead is a really bad idea. It ain't gonna happen.

We are about to go through our worst nightmare. There will be masses of desperately poor people in this nation where it has become a sin to be poor, no matter the reason.

We have been sent a very strong message and any one who didn't get that message with Katrina wasn't paying attention. The message is, you are on your own, Americans. Don't expect anything from your government, even at times of horrendous disaster. That was a message from the GOP, who have wanted to destroy anything that even smelled of the New Deal and the Great Society. They have finally done it. They did it by bankrupting the government and funneling the money back to themselves, either to the party or to corporations and individuals who are so intertwined, they remind me of a nest of cotton mouth moccasins under a country bridge.

The next president and his/her administration may want to help the people, but they won't be able to do much, unless they borrow the money. Our government, as we have known it, is irreparably broken and so are others of our societal institutions. We cannot trust them anymore.

Our military is more than just broken, but dangerously so.

We will find ourselves living in a much more lawless land than we ever dreamed about.

The planet is getting ready to throw one major hissy fit and either die or get rid of her inhabitants who are trying to kill her. Far more people will begin to die from our wrecked healthcare system, odd viruses and super-bacteria, random violence and from clearly poverty related disease and conditions. Policy wonks should be working on these things and more as the economic collapse grows nearer because it's going to make the Great Depression look like high times in the old town.

We need a president who can lead while walking arm and arm with the people, because what's coming is going to take all of us if we hope to survive. neither he nor we can afford for him to be locked away from us in that corrupting place we call our capitol. As far as I'm concerned, Barack is my man and I want to hear from him on a weekly basis and I want him to hear from us. (Of course I am not naive enough to believe we're gonna be chatting in a chat room or speaking with each other, personally) I want a White House that will set up a system for people - pres. communications. Of course the staff will handle it, but we can know that he will hear our biggest concerns, might hear some of our ideas and we will know what we need to know to live our lives as effective democrats (meaning people who live in a Democracy, even though ours hasn't been a Democracy in years.)

John Lewis from my state of Georgia speke for me when he said, Obama is not just a presidential campaign, it is a movement. I would go a little further. Obama is the culmination of one movement and the beginning of something entirely new, but only if the people stay awake and begin to really understand that democracy is not a spectator sport (It's not a sport at all) and that the government of a Republic must be watched carefully by it's citizens. It can easily flip over into something hideous, like a fascist state.

We need creative minds and people who aren't bound by the "law of 'this is how it's always been done'." We need responders more than reactors. We need people with open, flexible minds, not minds filled with habitual thinking patterns, knee-jerk reactions; aplastic brains, the output of which is stale and useless in a time like this.

I like a guy who talks about transformation and seems to know what that means.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pelican.