Columns 2008

Out, out! Damn political ads!

The primaries are finished, the winners announced. I dance in joy because no matter who won, it means our seemingly endless political season is half way over. I sincerely hope that above all else this means the demise of any and all ads by Vic Vickers; because seriously, even John Lindauer had more credibility. And that is a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Political seasons are like pregnancies. Each time one occurs, you’re surprised by how much worse it was than you remember.  It’s said that God deliberately gave women amnesia about the pain so that the human race could survive. Maybe God gives that amnesia to us collectively as a nation so we don’t recoil in horror at the approach of yet another state or national campaign.

I continue to be astounded by how annoying, shrill, and plain bad some campaigns can be. There are professionals who get paid big money to put political ads together. Focus groups are used to hone the message. Yet we still get little to nothing that rises above the level of dreck.

If, like me, you were glued to Olympic coverage at least until the end of the gymnastic competitions, you endured an average of four political ads per commercial break. Its hard to choose what was more annoying – the announcers of the games who seemed to see no competitor who wasn’t American; or the ads that tried to literally beat you into agreement with mindless repetitions of allegations and claims that were tiresome at best and numbing at worse. Do TV stations have no standards? Surely they bear some responsibility for our mental health. Would it kill them to limit political ads to no more than two per hour?

I finally took to wearing a headset and hitting the off button every time one of the ads started. It was the only way I could possibly endure without putting a chair through the TV set.

For instance, who advised Vic Vickers to produce ads that did nothing but make accusations against Ted Stevens while vaguely promising to take Alaska back. Back from where? Back to where? And what exactly did he stand for, except for that taking back stuff. His TV ads made him seem like a little Ken doll, all smooth plastic where important parts should have been. Was he for or against ANWR? Universal health care ? Canadian line or all Alaska line? Get out or stay the course in Iraq?  His ads told you nothing about him.

The most absurd moment in the primaries came when the suggestion was made that since Vic had been a Democrat in Florida, his appearance here in Alaska as a Republican was a nefarious plot on the part of the Democrats to knock Ted Stevens out of the race early. The implication is the Democrats actually recruited Vic as the best person possible to carry out this absurd plan.  While I am fully behind the premise that Democrats can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory better than anyone or anything else on earth, this is too far fetched even for them. A better plot line would be that the Republicans recruited him to run so Stevens, indictments not withstanding, looked ever so much better by comparison.

If Alaska is going to get carpetbagger politicians, we should demand to get people more along the lines of Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, like New York does. They are or were colorful, credible and, in Hillary’s case, an always fascinating study in the naked lust for power. Even John Lindauer brought us the drama of his marriage to a wealthy woman and her loan to finance his campaign. Vickers brought nothing but one of the most annoying voices ever heard on Alaskan television and a vague, unsettling resemblance to Grizzly Adams.

With the primaries over, the candidates are now lined up two by two like animals on Noah’s Ark. For every Democrat there is a Republican. For every liberal there is a conservative.  For every politician under indictment there is one running on the promise they never will be.

The games in Beijing have ended. Their torch has been extinguished. Now is the time to light the torch in America. Our games have truly just begun.