Not a lot of time to hang around the WordPress clubhouse today, folks, but I did want to discuss a new Obama campaign video that I saw this morning. I know most of you have seen it by now yourselves, but here it is just in case:
I think this ad is funny, but I also think it can play two ways. Those who are on the “Save PBS” bandwagon (and that would include me) will enjoy it and receive its message willingly. But I can also see another side to this, where we could be jumping the shark a little bit, at least in terms of how this PBS issue is being used by the Obama campaign itself.
Everyone with common sense saw how ridiculous Romney’s Big Bird comment was the other night. The idea that cutting government funding of public television could be a viable option as a cure for our economic woes was laughable in the extreme, and it really did make Romney appear both heartless AND clueless. I mean, he basically fired Jim Lehrer right there on live national television, which is a dick move no matter what you think of PBS. And people responded immediately. This has become a national talking point, with lots of people defending public television – and rightfully so.
But now that the general public has taken this cause under their big, yellow wing, maybe Obama can ease up on it a bit from his end. I don’t think we want him to come off as being too preoccupied with Sesame Street, right at this particular moment. He can leave that up to us. We didn’t like the idea of losing Big Bird and we are in pre-emptive strike mode. We’re organizing marches and sending emails to our elected officials and donating to PBS ourselves. We got this.
If there is anything left for the Obama campaign to say regarding the PBS controversy, then it should move beyond mere ridicule. There are substantive points to be made in connection with this issue, and some important contrasts between the two candidates to be emphasized. For example, one could make the case that this anti-public television stance is linked to a Republican lack of support of education in general, and bring those differences on education policy to light. This all feeds in to the narrative that Romney and Ryan want to privatize pretty much EVERYTHING, and that includes shows like Sesame Street that provide pre-schoolers (particularly those in lower-income families) with positive educational programming. Public television and public education work hand in hand, and both need government support in order to work effectively for all Americans.
Another tactic would be to use the PBS comment as a springboard into a discussion on job creation. The president may want to remind people that Romney is the guy who likes being able to fire people, and he can point out that Romney was eager to do exactly that to poor old Jim Lehrer during he debate. Then he can explain that firing people is basically the opposite of job creation, and that there may be a better plan than letting Big Bird and his buddies go. This gives you a way to launch into your recently-released 7.8% unemployment numbers, and to discuss the specific things that you would do that will be way more effective in growing jobs and our economy than cutting funding for PBS. How about the tax incentives Obama has proposed that would be offered to businesses that invest and hire here in the US, instead of overseas? When you compare that to Romney’s proposal to eliminate all taxes on the foreign profits that corporations make (a plan that would actually ENCOURAGE businesses to keep their money and jobs overseas), then you’ve made an important and clear distinction between Romney’s priorities and Obama’s priorities when it comes to jobs.
I imagine that a skilled political strategist could come up with several more ways to build this PBS thing into a narrative that helps the president on the campaign trail. But I would hope that if they don’t choose to go that way, then they will let it drop right about now. We have a lot of other stuff going on in this country that the president can be addressing very effectively. I would like to see him doing just that. The Big Bird thing will be playing itself out in the media and with the general public, and it doesn’t necessarily serve Obama’s cause to linger on it too long simply for the purposes of knocking Romney. If it can be used to illuminate policy differences between the two, then I say go for it. If it’s just going to be the equivalent of this:
…then I think Obama can, and should, do better. I would hate to see this become a distraction, or even an opportunity for Romney to turn the tables and mock Obama for worrying more about Muppets than about other issues. Seriously, Mr. President – we already got Big Bird’s back. You do your thing and we’ll take this one from here. ‘Kay?