All year we’ve focused on what was true or false in the flood of 2006 campaign advertising, and we wrote about those that we found twisted, distorted, misleading or fabricated. Now, as we wait for the ballots to be counted, we look back on some of that ads that caught our attention for other reasons.
We offer these FactCheck.org awards just for fun.
Here they are, the FactCheck.org Awards for 2006. We present them in no particular order, and with no claim of scientific accuracy. These are just our opinions. Feel free to agree or not, as you please.
Charlton Heston Award for Worst Impersonation of Moses
Winner: Colorado No on 42
This ad, set “somewhere in the mountains of Colorado,” features a Moses-like figure speaking hyperbolically to God about the supposed evils of ballot initiative 42, which would amend the state Constitution to provide for an annual increase in the minimum wage that’s pegged to inflation. “An annual minimum wage increase in stone for eternity,” moans the faux Moses.
This is exaggeration of Biblical proportions. There’s no Constitutional amendment, state or federal, that can’t be undone, though it’s harder than getting rid of a pesky statute. Remember Prohibition? (No, we don’t either, thank goodness.) That was also known as the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which went into effect in 1920. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment, which took effect almost 14 years later.
Busiest Supporting Actor
Winner: President Bush
President Bush was far and away the most frequent supporting actor – in Democratic ads. His name or image have appeared in at least 186 Democratic ads since Oct. 1, by our count, and we probably missed some that appeared in smaller TV markets not covered by the Campaign Media Analysis Group. The strategy is clear: whether they’re referring to a Republican candidate as a “supporter” of the “Bush agenda” or as a “rubberstamp,” Democrats believe the President’s low approval ratings are a stone they can use to sink their opponents. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s ad, “Together,” which began running on Sept 19, is a classic of the genre.
Busiest Supporting Actress
Winner: Hillary Clinton
Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York got the most mentions in Republican ads holding forth the supposed horrors of a Democratic-controlled Senate. We counted 11 since Oct. 1. This one from GOP Senate Candidate Pete Ricketts in Nebraska is typical, saying Democrat Ben Nelson will “vote to put Democrats in charge,” including Sen. Clinton who “wants higher taxes.”
The runner-up for this award is “San Francisco Liberal Nancy Pelosi,” who is mentioned in at least 6 GOP ads as a reason not to vote for a Democrat who would in turn vote to make her Speaker of the House.
Kinkiest Action Figure
Winner: Kinky Friedman
Independent Jewish Cowboy Kinky Friedman, who’s running for governor of Texas, used the “Kinky Friedman Action Figure” as a major element of his campaign strategy. The plastic Kinky had the following responses to tough questions from reporters in this ad:
On border issues:
“I’ll keep us out of war with Oklahoma.”
On getting the Democrats and Republicans to work together:
“I’m running for Governor, not God.”
It is unclear whether the doll comes with karate chop action or hair you can style yourself.
The “Who Needs Enemies?” Award
Winner: Idaho State Rep. Bill Sali
State Rep. Bill Sali, a Republican running in Idaho ’s First Congressional District, appears to have few friends even in his own party. The quotes in this ad are not only devastating, but accurate, at least as reported by the press – except that state House Speaker Bruce Newcomb’s full quote was even better than we’re told in the ad. “That idiot is an absolute idiot,” he opined. Forcefully. Newcomb’s comments were made when Sali refused to stop talking about an alleged link between abortions and breast cancer on the floor of the state House last spring, even though a fellow legislator (the Democratic leader) who was a breast cancer survivor began crying. The House’s 11 Democrats walked out to protest Sali’s remarks.
Cult Classic Award
Winner: Vernon Robinson
(Recognized for the body of his work)
Taken together, Robinson’s ads make up an anthology he could title, “The Attack of the 40-Foot Liberal.” In one that has received wide (and free!) exposure on cable news programs, Robinson compares modern day America to the Twilight Zone, illegal immigrants to intergalactic alien invaders, and equates the 1950’s show Leave It to Beaver with “traditional American values.” An announcer says, “You can burn the American flag and kill a million babies a year, but you can’t post the Ten Commandments or say God in public.” (Note to Vern: Actually, you can say God in public. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned that ruling against reciting “under God” in public schools.)
Other Robinson ads included:
- A claim that Democratic incumbent Brad Miller “has no trouble spending your money…he would just rather spend it on sex” (we debunked that claim here ).
- A radio spot in which Robinson claimed, backed by a mariachi soundtrack, that if incumbent Democrat Brad Miller “had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals.”
- A mutation of the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song that closes with this tag line: “Hey all you illegals. Put your shoes on. Go home. Don’t come back now, y’hear?”
Best Send-up of an Ineffective Federal Mandate
Winner: Phil Maymin
Libertarian House candidate Phil Maymin, running in Connecticut’s 4th district, ran a cable-only spot spoofing the “stand by your ad” provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign law. That’s the federal requirement that candidates appear in their own ads and say “I approve this message,” or words to that effect. The idea was to reduce the volume of distasteful attacks and false accusations by forcing candidates to take personal responsibility for them.
Clearly, that hasn’t worked.
In this ad Maymin gets a rubdown from a voter who’s clueless about who he is or what a Libertarian stands for, asking “You’re a librarian? . . . You’re Joe Lieberman?” Maymin explains, and then says “I approve this massage.”
Best Musical Score
Winner: Ned Lamont
This ad’s shrieking strings, reminiscent of the score in the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho,” seemed to us a perfect parody of much of this year’s crop of attack ads, with their over-the-top appeals to fear. Imagine this score behind, for example, the RNC’s ad suggesting that voting Democratic might lead to a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon, which we critiqued here , and you get the idea.
The “Empty Calories” Award
Winner: Americans United
This 15-second ad from a liberal group funded by labor unions takes the cake (so to speak) for lack of substance. It shows an elderly couple cutting a single hot dog in half to share for their meal, while the announcer asks “If George Bush and his backers in Congress privatize Social Security and cut benefits in half, what will you have to cut in half?” That wildly misrepresents Bush’s proposal, which would not have touched benefits for anybody currently receiving them or about to receive them, and would have allowed benefits for future recipients to grow, though more slowly than under current law. The plan died last year for lack of Republican support in any case.
Awards Committee: Brooks Jackson, Viveca Novak, Justin Bank, James Ficaro & Emi Kolawole.
Watch Pete Ricketts Ad: “In Charge”
Watch CO No on 42 Ad: “Hello”
Watch Grant Ad: “Republicans”
Watch Vernon Robinson Ad: “Twilight Zone”
Watch Kinky Friedman Ad: “Action Doll”
Watch Ned Lamont Ad: “Horror”
Watch American United Ad: “Hot Dog”
Watch Maymin Ad: “Massage”
Watch DSCC Ad: “Together”
Footnotes? We don’t need them here. These are just our opinions.