Posted in America, Politics, World, tagged 2012 Presidential Election, America, Egypt, foreign policy, Mitt Romney, News, political campaigns, Politics, President Obama, U.S. Embassy in Cairo, World on September 13, 2012 |
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After the storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Mitt Romney condemned the attack but also criticized a statement by the embassy that condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” Romney called that statement “disgraceful,” and he was criticized by the Obama Administration, and others, for “launching a political attack” on that issue. The tiff raises the question of whether criticism of an Administration’s handling of foreign policy issues is fair game in a presidential election.
There may have been a time when politics “ended at the water’s edge” and the parties spoke with one voice on foreign policy, but that era ended long ago. All of the presidential campaigns I can remember — from the days of Vietnam War protests, to the Iranian hostage crisis, to the more recent debates about how to proceed in Iraq and Afghanistan — have involved some kind of foreign policy issues. Indeed, often one of the presidential debates is devoted exclusively to “foreign policy.” And the Obama Administration obviously feels that foreign policy issues are important; the recent Democratic convention emphasized the killing of Osama bin Laden and sounded the theme that the United States is more secure and respected abroad under the President.
The President is our Commander-in-Chief and establishes our foreign policy by appointing and instructing ambassadors. It’s obviously an important role — and in a world made ever-smaller by technology and advanced weaponry, where many countries and groups have targeted America for harm, some argue it is the most important responsibility the American President has. In view of that, how can anyone reasonably argue that the President’s approach to foreign policy shouldn’t be considered and debated during a presidential campaign?
That leaves the issue of whether Romney can fairly be criticized about the tone and timing of his comments. Is it too harsh to call the mewling statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo disgraceful, and should he have waited until a day or two later before voicing his views? I don’t think so, in either case. Romney had every right to strongly criticize the official statement of an American embassy, which struck an unseemly appeasing tone that seemed to undercut the core American value of freedom of speech. If Americans don’t stand up for our freedoms, they won’t be our freedoms for long. And as far as timing goes, the Obama Administration itself quickly disavowed the embassy statement, too. In view of that, and the fact that the embassy statement apparently wasn’t officially sanctioned, why shouldn’t Romney also be permitted to have his say?
I’m all in favor of robust free speech. So long as Romney isn’t leaking state secrets or giving aid and comfort to the enemy, he should be free to voice his views about foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit — and American voters then have the right to agree or disagree with his statements and vote accordingly. That’s how our system is supposed to work.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged Advertising, America, Demstore.com, Marketing, political campaigns, Politics, President Obama, Trademarks on June 4, 2012 |
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By coincidence, on the same day that I wrote about the marketing of President Obama, I ran across a news article that, I think, highlights the issue.
According to ABC News, the Obama re-election campaign is suing a website called Demstore.com that is selling t-shirts, bumper stickers, and buttons with the Obama campaign logo. The lawsuit charges that the website is infringing on the re-election campaign’s trademark. The article also notes that every sale of such items by Demstore.com means lost revenue for the Obama re-election campaign, and also means a lost opportunity for the campaign to get name, address, and other contact information that would allow the t-shirt purchaser to be approached for additional campaign contributions later.
The owner of Demstore.com says he’s worked cooperatively with Democratic candidates in the past and is disappointed at being sued. He says his website supports only Democrats and is used primarily by state and country Democrats who don’t want to pay the high prices charged by the Obama campaign website. Whereas a single t-shirt on the Obama website costs $30, you can get 500 t-shirts from Demstore.com for $5.49 each. (I suppose that bit of information tells you something about the Obama campaign’s product mark-up, doesn’t it?)
It’s odd to think that a presidential candidate would object to someone else selling shirts with messages that support that candidate’s election, but we apparently have moved past that innocent notion. In politics today, business is business.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged Advertising, America, Joe McGinnis, Marketing, Michelle Obama, political campaigns, Politics, President Obama, The Selling of the President on June 4, 2012 |
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The world has come a long way since Joe McGinniss wrote The Selling of the President about the role of marketing in the 1968 campaign of Richard Nixon. Back then, many people disapproved of that trend and criticized the Nixon campaign for commercializing the serious business of electing a President.
Forty-four years later, the Nixon campaign tactics seem old-fashioned and tame. Campaigns employ pollsters to gauge public opinion, advertising gurus to target the message as the internal polling indicates, and spinmeisters to try to make sure that public opinion moves the way the campaign wants it to move. All of this is widely accepted in our digital, hyper-communicative age.
I still balk, however, at the sale of product by presidential campaigns. Go to barackobama.com (the official reelection campaign website) and you will see a “store” tab. Click on the tab and you’ll find a wide range of products for sale, ranging from t-shirts and hoodies and ball caps and coffee mugs to an “I Meow for Michelle” cat collar — and that’s just on the first page of items for sale. Some items are even marked down, and you can get discounts for others if you enter the right “promo code.”
I suppose this is the logical extension of a culture where presidential campaigns last forever and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and fundraisers need to produce money however they can. I suppose you can even argue that t-shirts are just a logical extension of the campaign buttons of days gone by. Still, I can’t help but wonder if pushing the President and First Lady as celebrity “brands” detracts from our perception of President Obama as a President. With the focus on money, money, money, how can you not help but wonder if his decisions aren’t motivated, just a bit, by a cold-blooded desire to sell a new style of t-shirt that gets rolled out a few days later?
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Posted in America, Politics, The Economy, tagged America, Mitt Romney, political campaigns, Politics, President Obama, The Economy, Unemployment, Voters on May 4, 2012 |
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Today the April unemployment report is released. It probably will be read more closely in the lobbying offices on K Street than in the trading pits on Wall Street.
Americans vote with their pocketbooks. For all the recent talk about Mitt Romney’s roof transportation of a family pet years ago, President Obama eating dog meat in the distant past, and other silly issues, the economy is what most ordinary people really care about. Contrived issues like prior treatment of dogs have no impact on everyday American life — but a shrinking economy, or a robust one, reaches every kitchen table in every home. We don’t need to be instructed by the media elites about the importance of the economy; we see it every day in unemployed or underemployed friends and struggling local businesses.
That’s why today’s report is significant. Unfortunately, our economy seems to be teetering on the brink. After marginal job growth over the holiday season, March’s jobs report was poor. More and more people seem to be giving up on finding a job — so much so that the government doesn’t even bother to count them in calculating unemployment statistics. If another bad report comes out, it probably means that our economy is mired in the mud and we’re in for more hard times.
Political campaigns focus on “messaging” and packaging their candidates and working to spin everything in their favor. Economic performance, however, doesn’t need messaging or packaging, and can’t really be spun. It’s a uniquely powerful political force, beyond the control of the spinmeisters and talking heads — and that’s why the campaigns will be carefully scrutinizing today’s report.
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged America, Campaign contributions, Josh Mandel, Money, Ohio, political campaigns, Political contributions, Politics, Sherrod Brown, United States Senate on April 28, 2012 |
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We’ve got a hot U.S. Senate race in Ohio this year: incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is looking to fend off the challenge of Republican Josh Mandel.
I’ll write more about the race as we get closer to the election. For now, I’ll just say that I’m mystified by the tactics of the Brown campaign. I get their e-mails constantly, and they all are about money. How much money Mandel is raising, how much money “special interests” are contributing to support Mandel’s candidacy, how many TV ads have been purchased as a result of the money contributed to the Mandel campaign, and how much money the Brown campaign needs to make up for the cash landslide that is tumbling into Ohio.
Money, money, money! Obviously, the Brown campaign believes that the constant drumbeat of news about what donors have contributed to Mandel’s campaign will spur me to open my checkbook, again and again, to give money to Sherrod Brown. My question is: why do they think that is what will happen? Isn’t it equally plausible that I’ll just get sick to death of being hit up for money and immediately delete their e-mails, unread? (After all, we’re still six months away from the election — how many more money-grubbing e-mails do they think I can bear?) Or that I’ll just give up because the money lead for the Mandel campaign apparently is insurmountable? Or that I’ll conclude that the Brown campaign doesn’t care about anything except cold, hard cash?
Political campaigns used to be about candidates, issues, speeches and rallies, now they are about money, money, and more money. We are all the poorer for this.
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Posted in Food, Humor, Politics, tagged corn dogs, Food, Humor, Michele Bachmann, photographs, political campaigns, Politics, Rick Perry on August 16, 2011 |
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It should be a basic rule of politics: never be photographed eating a corn dog.
During the state fair season, it’s inevitable that politicians will visit the fair. And when they are there, the politicians will want to do whatever it takes to show that they can identify with and understand the concerns of their fellow fairgoers. What better way to communicate that you aren’t some ivory tower, out-of-touch, upper-class twit than by eating some fair food along with the rest of the dusty masses? And, of course, the corn dog is the most basic fair food item of all.
It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that staffers think having the candidate eat a corn dog seems like a fine idea. The problem, however, is that there is no graceful way to eat a corn dog. Obviously, you don’t use a knife and fork. It is an awkward culinary object, and most people don’t eat them regularly.
As a result, every picture you see of a politician gobbling a corn dog looks funny and unflattering. Some are worse than others — Michele Bachmann’s recent photo, above, would be hard to top — but they all look bad. When you think about it, Rick Perry’s photo to the left isn’t really much better.
If I wear running a campaign, I’d impose a no corn dog rule. Munching on elephant ears, hot dogs, and ears of corn all are perfectly capable of communicating the “everyman” message, without running the risk of the dreaded corn dog photo.
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