‘Say No’ to condescending ad campaigns

Posted on October 6, 2014 at 11.16 am

Last week, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) released a set of ads aimed at young women voting for governor in six states. If you haven’t seen them already, take a moment to watch this representative ad for Arkansas:

As this ad (and its five siblings) began to make internet rounds, it was almost immediately the subject of derision. Viewers noted that the tone was condescending, even sexist. As one typical review said, “Voting is hard, right ladies? Luckily, the College Republican National Committee is here to help put things in terms we’ll understand: wedding dresses.”

Soon, commentators on the right started playing defense. They highlighted a leftwing video put out by Cosmopolitian (yes, the magazine you probably know better as the source of “1000 Crazy Ways to Use a Can Opener in Your Sex Life” articles) in which a young woman parodies a makeup tutorial video while discussing politics. It’s hypocritical, so the arguments went, to criticize the CRNC video while lauding the one from Cosmo.

But as much as I have no love for Cosmo, here’s the key difference between the two: The Cosmo ad actually contains specific facts and policy suggestions. They may be facts we’d like to dispute (like whether or not women are only paid 78 percent of what men are paid) and policy suggestions we’d like to debate (like the effects of the minimum wage), but they’re undeniably there.

The format is silly; but to Cosmo’s credit, it gives the audience specific information they can research and concludes by encouraging the target demographic—young women—to get engaged in politics and not “let other people speak for you.”

But the CRNC videos? Not so much.

Each one offers only the vaguest possible critiques of the candidates they oppose, like suggestions that he’ll bring higher taxes or cause people to lose their jobs.

Ok, that’s scary, CRNC. And you may well be right. But how will this happen? Can you offer any specifics at all?

Because I don’t know about other young women, but pretty dresses are not enough to make me give someone my vote.

The fact that only ten seconds of each minute-long ad is even customized by state (beyond switching out the names) does not bode well. Indeed, I’d suggest that any campaign ad which can be used in six different states with minimal modification is by definition embarrassingly simplistic and condescending. And if that ad is exclusively targeted at young women—and there’s no similarly patronizing ad campaign made for young men—then, yes, it’s also sexist.

Read the whole thing here.

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IRS ‘hard drive crashes continue as we speak’—Really?!

Posted on September 29, 2014 at 11.12 am

This week, I look at the dangerous precedent the IRS’ hard drive excuse sets for government accountability:

Of course, for many people, distaste for the IRS kicked into high gear with the news that the agency hassled conservative/tea party and even progressivepolitical groups with unfair delays and scrutiny. The government can’t handle criticism, it seems, and the IRS decided to make life miserable for any organization that didn’t adequately bow before the system.

At the center of this scandal is Lois Lerner, the high-ranking IRS agent whorepeatedly refused to testify about her role in this corruption by pleading the Fifth. Because of her silence (only recently broken with protestations of innocence), an archive of tens of thousands of her emails is the one clear source of evidence to determine wrongdoing in the political targeting debacle.

So, inevitably since this is the government we’re talking about, many of those emails are missing.

For months now, we’ve heard excuse after excuse and story after story about these elusive emails. Back in June, the IRS claimed that the emails were gone because of limited email storage space and a computer crash back in 2011.

Since then, new revelations and accusations have been all over the map. In one statement, the IRS suggested that the emails are not missing after all, but it would be a lot of work to find them. Reports have surfaced that the emails could have been saved on a government-wide backup service, but the IRS says no such service exists. Meanwhile, the agency continues to announce the loss of more and more emails in what can only be described as highly convenient circumstances for corrupt IRS employees.

Oh, and did I mention that a Department of Justice attorney who has represented the IRS was apparently himself involved in the original corruption?

I must admit I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the IRS scandal until recently. I tend to be more interested in foreign policy and civil liberties issues, and it’s not like my feelings about the IRS could get much more negative anyway, amirite?

But then I saw this headline: Koskinen: “Hard Drive Crashes Continue as We Speak”

I mean, really? Really?!

Read the whole thing here.

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This week’s column is about the way the President apparently micromanages drone strikes and now bombing in Syria—and how that’s just a symptom of a much bigger problem.

Remember the “kill list”? In 2012, the New York Times broke the shocking story that President Obama hand selects the targets for drone bombing campaigns in Middle Eastern countries like Pakistan and Yemen. The irony was sharp and the ethical concerns sharper:

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

Now, as air strikes begin in Syria in an attempt to stop the advance of ISIS, it seems Obama’s extremely hands-on war management style continues: The Wall Street Journal reports that “Obama plans to tightly control strikes in Syria.”

Just how tight will that control be? Well, I’ll give you a hint: It sounds a lot like the control he exercises over drone strikes:

The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said. […] By demanding the Pentagon gets his signoff on any strikes in Syria, Mr. Obama can better ensure the operation remain focused on his main goal for that part of the campaign: weakening the militants’ hold on territory in neighboring Iraq.

Sounds familiar, right?

Obama has been accused of micromanaging in the past. Back in 2009 the charge came up regarding economic policy. In 2006 he reportedly said, “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it. It’s hard to give up control when that’s all I’ve known.” In 2011, the First Lady emphasized how detail-focused her husband tends to be, saying he “reads every word, every memo, so he is better prepared than the people briefing him.”

There’s an extent to which that diligence is a good thing, and a welcome contrast to Obama’s more recent reputation for claiming ignorance of all kinds of important things. So I’m not interested in attempting some sort of pop psychology analysis of Obama’s plan to handpick the targets and people he bombs.

Maybe, as some have suggested, it’s a guilt thing. Or maybe, as others have posited, Obama is attempting to take the role of restrainer of the dogs of war. Or maybe, as the President himself supposedly said, he’s just “really good at killing people.”

I don’t know which, if any, of these, is the reason behind the President’s decision to micromanage these wars. Again, I’m not a psychologist.

No, what I see here is a much bigger problem—namely an out-of-control presidency which would have too much authority whether the President were Republican or Democrat, smart or dumb, a micromanager or an easygoing delegator.

Read the whole thing here.

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