Notes on Political Venality, Pomposity and Associated Stupidity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fear and Self Loathing; The Santorum Campaign Spins Out of Control

When all is said and done next week, the much-lauded campaign skills of Rick Santorum and the marketing skills of his personal media maven, John Brabender may have to be seriously rethought, for this has been a campaign that has done little right. In many ways, it resembles the season the Pittsburgh Steelers are having, full of fumbles, missteps, penalties and just flat out bad play. Like the Steelers, and despite a rather large "red zone" in the middle of the Commenwealth, it appears Rick will come up just a little short.

I raised this issue some months ago. At that point I imagined the campaign would muster its forces and start finding a way to dismantle Bob Casey piece by piece. But it just didn't happen. Their TV ads were typically wacky and expansively produced. But voters didn't seem to notice. In fact, it may have been that supposed "creativity" which turned them off. Each ad seemed to raise questions rather than quell them; Was the polka ad shot on green screen? Did Rick bump into that woman? Was the ad with his kids shot at the Penn Hills faux home? Did Rick really agree to have his kids lie for him?

More recently questions arose about the desperate use of terrorists and mushrooms clouds, as well as a "Wrestling" ad in which Rick tried to show his bipartisan, liberal-loving bona fides by talking about his work across-the-aisle with Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton. To my ears, that ad was a replay of Santorum's Toomey vs. Spector gaffe, when he turned his back on his religious right-wing base to help keep Arlen in office.

Oh, and there was the negative ad which featured a dead guy. That reminded me a lot of the failed campaign which BrabenderCox cooked up for Mike Fisher, when he ran for Governor. In that campaign, Brabender used a fake Philly cab driver in one ad...and was later hoisted on his own air freshener when Oxman, et al pulled out the real deal and slapped back.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Rick is no ones idea of the ideal candidate. He's clearly not a pliable pol who you can plop in front of the prompter and say, "Read this!" Rick has attitude and it's unlikely that Brabender could have changed his mind about much. But, with that said, it should be understood how close to guys are; Brabender is the godfather of one of Rick's children...and last year he moved his main office to Leesburg, VA - the same town that Santorum lives in. They are inexorably tied together, and Brabender has no excuse for not understanding the hand he was dealt.

Santorum needed, but did not get, a campaign that was new and fresh. TV commercials that were pointed and smart, not flabby reruns from other campaigns. He needed something new on TV, so that viewers would see him in a new light. He needed a fresh take. He didn't get it. This is why companies often change advertising agencies; after a while, the one you have is just too inbred to give you the kick in the butt you need to succeed.

After next Tuesday, it's likely that both the client and the agency will be looking for work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stay the Course.

The Winston Smith in me is always on alert when the government starts to parse its "truth" too carefully. So it goes with the startling revelation by Prez Mouthpiece Tony Snow that "stay the course" really means, "change and be adaptive!" It is a wholly laughable bit of twisted PR-speak, which would have been skewered and ripped to shreds by the media in that earlier era which I shall now call BC; Before Couric.

Perhaps only this President could attempt to cover his gross negligence with such a brazen bastardization of the language. George wanted this war and he wanted the glory and fame he thought would flow from it. The fame is a lock. The glory will be much more elusive.

Santorum Wrestles With His Demons

Santorum, desperate to prove "he's a fighter," is out with a new TV spot revolving around a wrestling match. It is much like the earlier "Polka" ad, except a lot more violent. But put the setting aside and listen to Rick the Uniter tell us how he has or is working with Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton! Wow! Can you say those names without the snippy, snarky recrimination you're so well known for, Rick?

The effort here is to appeal to women and liberals or to libertarians or to undecideds. Show them how, despite the Liberal Media's mischaracterization of poor SnipeTorum, he really is someone who reaches across the aisle in a constant effort to be bipartisan. Yea.

And of course, as we all know, liberal women are always attracked to thuggish wrestlers, so this a fine choice of scenarios for this commercial...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hartless, We Hope

Melissa Hart is fighting to hold her own against up-and-comer Jason Altmire. This likable and smart challenger is making Melissa's life miserable right now. A recent visit by Al Franken helped raise much-needed campaign cash and now John Kerry will come to Pittsburgh to do the same. The Almire juggernaut is hoping they can "stay up" on TV as much as Melissa is.

And that's a funny thing. Call me crazy, but was that first commercial of her's the weakest, wimpiest, most dour bit of flotsam you've seen this year? I mean, after years in Congress, she recycles her "brownfield" claims (and used the same footage) as one of her major achievements? Yep Missy, Western PA is just a hotbed of business growth and opportunity....

But what's even funnier is her touting of the "I-376" corridor as a major victory for the area. While no one will argue that the mish-mash of road names and numbers leading into downtown Pittsburgh (are we on 22/30 or 60 or what?) was needed, this is one of the most minor accomplishments I've ever heard anyone claim...let alone use in a TV spot.

Perhaps she didn't want to tout her ongoing, unbending support for the disaster that is the Iraq War? Or the continued loss of jobs and population in the area? Or the fact that health care costs are rising unabated...and she, and all her cronies just sat on their hands?

Nope. But she was darn proud of those new interstate signs....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If Santorm Loses, He Wins

I raised this issue some months ago, when Rick seemed to be doing everything possible to scutttle his chances for re-election.

The issue? Does Rick really want to lose? The answer? Highly possible.

Like fellow Pennsylvanian Tom Ridge, Rick has a very lucrative career awaiting him the moment he hits the bricks. Having feathered his nest on K Street, Santorum will have the ultimate soft (and profitable) landing.

Think about it in the most practical of terms; Rick and Karen, as much as they might want to, will probably not be able to home school their huge brood through college. Someone is going to have to pay for them to attend "the colleges of their choice," whether that's Bob Jones University or Berkeley or Bard. (isn't that a fun thought?)

So, while you're thinking "just how nutty can Rick get," think about how his continued and vehement support for every single radical right wing religious agenda point might help him when he is no longer just a powerful visitor on K Street, but he he "officially" moves his office there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sound and Fury, Signifying Rage

Rick Santorum raged against Bob Casey last night. He practically called him out. If you watched the debate, you had to be a little uneasy, as the two men were physically close to each other...and at times it seemed way too close.

So yes, Rick was pumped up, in the same way that someone with "anger management issues" gets pumped. He sputtered, he raised his voice, he put a lot of pressure on his seals and gaskets. He wanted to be heard and he wanted to be the loudest voice in the room. Not hard when Bob Casey is your debate opponent, as he is a mild-mannered, quiet sort, who is never going to dazzle you with his bloviating like RhetoRick. The bottom line? The public is tired of the whiny brat and is ready for the strong silent type. If last night's debate was a metaphorical boxing match, then Casey was "The Quiet Man."

I do take issue, however, with Casey's responses here and there. I thought he had the opportunity to put Santorum down for the count...and instead swung wide, without landing the knockout blow. For instance...

When questioned about his work ethic, Casey might have said, "Rick, how much of that time you spend in Washington was on Capitol Hill...and how much was on K Street where you were the lead dealer in the biggest insider lobbyist game in town?"

And when Santorum started to go on about his monumental "puppy mill" legislation, could Bob have simply said; "Ya know, Rick. That's all you've got to show for 12 years in the US Senate?"

I know Casey ain't a great debater, but his people need to sharpen his responses a bit. None of the stuff that Santorum brought up was a surprise...and Casey needed to be better prepared. I mean, after all, is there any easier target in the world than Rick?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hastert Has To Go

Hastest actually is gone. His malingering is merely an election year effort to avoid a total and complete GOP Congressional meltdown. At least that's what the wags say.

But if you parse both options; Leave while pleading nolo contendre...or stay on, get redder in the face and dominate every news cycle from now 'til Novemeber one has to wonder. If I were the king of the forest, I'd tell Denny to beat it. It would quiet the scandal, at least a few dB.

Remember that Hastert was an absolute nobody when he got this job. He was a blank slate which the Leadership installed so they could control him...and guarantee an easy installation. WIth that in mind, I just can't imagine, other than sheer conservative "we're never, ever wrong" mindset, why the big bag of adipose won't move on.

Of course, I'm still wondering why Rick Santorum didn't squelch his cyberschool issue 12 months ago. It could very well be the number one reason why he'll lose this year.

But back to Denny and "Fruit of the Loom" Foley.

Perhaps the real problem is that there are so many "overly friendly" and "creepy" guys in DC that it really would be hard to figure out which ones are truly depraved and which ones are merely "odd."

My favorite quote in all this (so far) came from a guy who has to be considered a creep, Newt "Hey Honey, I'm leaving you...sorry about the cancer" Gingrich, who said, and I paraphrase here, "The Democrats have had a lot worse sex scandals."

Bravo Newt! And "my dog's better than yours" too! With that sort of prepubescent mindset at work, you should definitely get back into Congress. There is a seat in Florida you could slide into very nicely.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Here's a picture of me wait...

Photo ops are a time-tested free-media bonus in DC. The top party suckups are often invited to tuck in close to the Prez when he's signing something or saying something. The "something: usually isn't that important. What's important is that picture which hits the national wire. If you're lucky and can lean in far enough, you won't be cropped by some nasty photo editor.

So it is with Rick Santorum, who's made a career of appearing on the dias to get his picture took. This is easy for Rick, since he spends so little time actually working on legislation.

But photos such as these have their downsides too, such as the one which appeared on Page 1, above the fold, of the New York Times the other day; showing Rick, the Prez and Representative "Fruit of the Loom" Foley, all grinning.

Now, far be it from me to say that there is any guilt by association, but it shows just how closely allied all the GOP neo-freaks are in DC.