FIRST, THE BACKGROUND THAT MAKES THE STORY ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING: Before I repeat the story that's starting to make the news and the blogs, I'd like to start with an angle that the other media haven't caught onto yet, but that puts it into perfect perspective.
Last summer, Bonney Lake (WA) High School's student government representatives held a retreat to plan for the year, reported in the Puyallup (WA) Herald. In that article, one student leader summarized the hope that those young, bright, engaged future leaders wanted to bring, not to American politics, but just to their own high school's new school year:
Public Relations Officer Casey Knowles, another senior, said she has high hopes for this year’s student government.
“We’re a group that wants change,” Knowles said.
OK, so now you know a tiny nugget about who one Casey Knowles is: a high school senior, involved in student government, willing to invest some time over the summer in trying to make her school a better place -- and summarizing her classmates', and her generation's, ideal: "We're a group that wants change."
That's awesome! We love kids like her, who care about making the world better instead of getting a high score on Wii! But why's it news, and why today?
NOW THE STORY THAT'S STARTING TO MAKE THE ROUNDS TODAY: Casey Knowles turns out to be one of the children used in Clinton's "3 AM" ad (here, along with all its Republican "be afraid. be very afraid" antecedents), which used stock film footage from several years ago. And Casey Knowles, who had no idea her image was being used in Clinton's ad, is now not only a high school student government leader, but also a Democratic precinct captain and -- consistent with her hope for change -- a fervent Obama supporter.
So: Obama has actually earned the real-life support of a really cool, smart, involved, active young person. Clinton has merely reached back years for film footage of that cool, smart, involved, active young person when she was a child, to make an ad that the cool, smart, involved, active young person strongly disagrees with.
The future vs. the past; reality vs. images; Obama vs. Clinton. Now, ain't this the whole primary campaign in a nutshell?
News and blog stories on this can be found on the Huffington Post, the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, TPM, and Washington State local TV. Other campaign stories here and here.
And here's the original Casey Knowles story (from an Obama press release -- see, they're NOT helpless and silent naifs when confronted with dishonest, Republican-style smear attacks):
Subject: The New Argument: Child in Clinton's 3 am Phone Ad Supports Obama
BREAKING NEWS: Child in Clinton’s “3am Phone Ad” supports Obama
By Evan Miller • Mar 7th, 2008 • Category: Campaign '08
Casey Knowles, a High School Senior in Washington state, recently discovered she was one of the sleeping children in Clinton’s controversial “Children” ad appearing prior to the Texas primaries.
Knowles, a supporter of Barack Obama was shocked that she had contributed to the national security message of a candidate that she passionately opposes.
When asked by The New Argument, this is what Knowles had to say about her appearance in Clinton’s ad:
“While I love Hillary, I would much rather hear Barack Obama’s voice at the other end of the phone at 3am. Its hilarious and ironic that the child in Hillary’s ad is now of voting age and not her supporter. I’ve been campaigning for Barack since October and was a caucus precinct captain. I’ve been a very avid advocate of his and recruited a lot of folks to caucus for him in January. He’s inspired and mobilized so many already, he’s refreshing and quite simply the best option for people who want to change this country.”
King 5 News interviewed Casey Knowles and her family at their home after we broke the story. You may have to login to view the video, so here is the written story…
BONNEY LAKE, Wash. – The political ad that sparked nationwide controversy turns out to have a surprising local connection.
One of the actors in the Hillary Clinton ad was shocked to see herself, especially because she’s a fierce supporter of Barack Obama.
The so-called “red-phone ad” played a big role in Clinton’s win in Texas, suggesting Barack Obama is too inexperienced to handle a national crisis.
But the young girl starring in the ad will actually be voting age next month and says she’s no fan of Hillary Clinton.
Thursday night, the Knowles family of Bonney Lake, Wash., watched the John Stewart Show and saw the ad for the first time.
“I looked and saw a girl that looked like my sister and we rewound it and sure enough it was my sister,” said Brady Knowles.
The first girl in the ad is young Casey Knowles. It’s stock footage from 8 years ago when she worked as a TV extra - footage owned now by Getty Images and used by the Clinton campaign.
The dangers of stock footage
But they couldn’t have picked a more unwilling star.
“It’s really sort of ironic that my image would be used to advocate for Hillary when I myself do not,” said Casey.
She may only be 17, but Casey has some very strong political opinions. She turns 18 - legal voting age - in April, in plenty of time before the general election.
“It’s perfect timing because I have a candidate that I really identify with,” she said.
“I’ve been campaigning for Barack Obama for a few months now,” she said. “I was actually a precinct captain at the caucuses a few months ago. I attended his rally a few months ago and I’m a very, very avid supporter.”
The Knowles family admit they have no control over how the footage is used. And while they see the humor of it all, they are mildly annoyed.
“I think it would be really wonderful if me and Barack Obama could get together and make a nice counter ad,” she laughed.
Despite all of this, Casey Knowles admits if Clinton wins the party’s nomination, she will vote for her.
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