“With 500 channels and the Internet available,
you'd think a candidate could get the word out.”
“The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office
like breakfast cereal - that you can gather votes like box tops - is, I think,
the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.”
Adlai E. Stevenson
“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.”
In the fall of 2006, a highly placed Washington insider told me that they had made a professional decision based on the fact that the Republicans had lost control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. That piece of information has been all over the news for the past year. What made this insider’s comment so different was the fact that the comment was made two weeks before the election. That means that in the same way Hollywood insiders can predict box office results and monetize the price of a commercial in a particular television series, Washington insiders know how the vote is going to go long before any of us ever goes to the polls.
Another defining moment of my political education came on the night of the California primary in a gubernatorial race. The candidate and I shared a mutual friend. That friend was a major fundraiser in their campaign. Through that social connection I was invited into the winning candidate’s hotel suite on that night, watching the endless flow of champagne and jumbo shrimp. While the acceptance speech played on the television, a group of attorneys quietly joked among themselves. All of their jokes assumed they would be appointed as judges when their candidate took office.
We’ve reached a point in history when every candidate for the office of President of the United States of America has to post a personal page on MySpace to be considered viable. The cost of launching a successful candidacy for the next presidency might reach $1 billion by the time we cast our ballots – and a significant percentage of that cost will be dedicated to getting their message across to you through the media.
In this section, we’ll explore the methods and the messages that permeate political reporting, news analysis and campaign commercials.
The Gas Crisis 2008: Brought to You By…Enron???
June 9th 2008
No matter where you go, the media is filled with stories about the price of gas. Citizens are outraged – putting gas in their cars can mean taking food out of the mouths of their children. Elected officials are outraged – launching Congressional investigations and drafting legislation. Strangely enough, the oil companies claim to be aghast, too. They insist that we shouldn’t blame them for the rising costs of gas – it’s not their fault!
When you hear a report on the price of oil, there’s one key piece of information you should be listening for: the response of the oil industry spokesman. It will be buried at the final moment of the report, almost as if the media is attempting to underplay the comment. Nevertheless, it is the key to understanding why you’re paying more than $4.00/gallon for your carpool runs.
Oil industry spokesman claim the problem is that they don’t have enough places to drill for oil.
Perhaps you’re not old enough to recall the controversy over the Alaska pipeline. You might remember the controversy over the expansion of off-shore drilling. Start listening to the newscasts more closely. Every reporter is punching two specific points:
1. The price of gas could rise past $5.00/gallon by the 4th of July, and then go higher by the end of the summer.
2. The only solution is to let the oil companies do offshore drilling on both coasts.
This second point is typically preceded by a softly spoken statement that the reporter “loves the birds and wildlife just as much as anybody else, but…” It’s immediately followed by an endorsement for expanded drilling by the oil companies. What they don’t mention is the fact that if we did allow offshore drilling to commence it could take upwards of five years before we started to see any relief at the gas tanks – AND – the cost of this expanded drilling would be passed on to the consumer.
As early as 1986, analysts were reporting that if the oil industry was ever allowed to become a speculated commodity, prices would escalate far beyond realistic expectations. And here we are, at the point where supply and demand are no longer the source of price escalation.
So, what’s a mother to do?
Visit the section on “Tell Them What You Think” and start writing letters. Tell your elected officials that you can’t stop feeding your kids and you can’t opt to drive them to school less frequently. Tell your local news – and the national news – outlets that you want to hear more stories about the impact that speculation has had on the oil prices. Last, but certainly not least, rent or purchase a copy of WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR and write to GM explaining that you’re willing to forgive them for destroying the product that could be making their stock prices soar astronomically IF – and it’s a big, conditional IF – IF they start immediate production of the electric car again. You might want to thank them for slowing and/or stopping production of some of their larger trucks and SUV’s – unless your family is impacted by the resulting unemployment. In that case, add a paragraph explaining how their failure to foresee the current situation has caused extreme hardship on your family.
While you’re at the video store, consider renting another brilliant documentary – ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM. As an old time comedian used to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” But if you live in California, you probably already knew that.
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