. . . Tuesday May 25, 2004

The Image Problem

To paraphrase Billy Joel:

If that’s MoveOn then I’m moving out

Even with W’s record low approval ratings, John Kerry hasn’t seen much of gain in the polls. That’s probably to be expected at this point. Iraq is sucking up all the media attention, it’s still early, and people may not know Kerry all that well yet.

But there are major risks associated with the lack of self-definition. Others can define you. I’m not talking about the Bushies. They spent $60 million trying and it didn’t work all that well.

I’m talking about groups like MoveOn.org.

I know they’ve raised a ton of money and done some great work. And the spirited grassroots momentum among Dems is a pleasure to see. But I don’t want MoveOn to lead this election. I want John Kerry to lead it.

Here is a clear example of why.

MoveOn is set to release an ad that will feature the Statue of Liberty with an Abu Ghraib-esque hood over her head.

Fellow Democrats and Kerry campaigners, is that really how you want this battle to be fought?

MoveOn.org’s executive director Peter Schurman explains that, “there’s nothing inappropriate about making sure Americans know about the scandal. It’s the most patriotic thing we could do at this point.”

Schurman is wrong. The image is inappropriate, idiotic, childish and a major tactical mistake.

Frankly, it distracts from a very important and very appropriate questions being raised by the ads. Why did the scandal happen? Why does Rummy have a job?

It also robs the Democrats of the high ground (if there is one) in terms of political television ads, effectively erasing the disgusting use of 9-11 images by the Bush team. Listen to the distorted thinking of, Pacy Markman, one of the brains behind the making of the ad: “We didn’t put images from 9/11 into our ads. When it comes to exploitation we take a back seat to the Bush campaign.”

Congratulations. You’re the second biggest asshole around. Come on. This is a marketing executive?

The ad will also will satisfy extremists while turning the stomachs of those undecided voters who should be the key target of any ads.

The goal of negative political ads is to present the opposing side with something to defend. This image does just the opposite.

Kerry needs to own this campaign. It will be a team effort, but it has to be a team behind one leader. And when appropriate, that leader has to tell team members when to put a cork in it.

Concentration is important!