Today's topic: the billions (yes, with a "b") that will be spent on advertising in this year's presidential and congressional campaigns, and what kind of messages that money is sending.
Like jazz, blues and musical comedy, the political ad is a uniquely American contribution to the arts, only less uplifting. Some turn into classics, like
This year's campaign hasn't produced anything that good yet. But over a hot summer weekend I sat in an air-conditioned den and bravely watched dozens of commercials online so you wouldn't have to. Here are highlights and lowlights of the video battle so far:
Most effective Republican ad: "Wake Up," from Crossroads GPS,
Most effective Democratic ad: "Stage," from Priorities USA Action, an independent Democratic group backing Obama. In this one, a middle-aged worker in Indiana describes the day he was told to build a stage on the factory floor. The stage turned out to be for executives from
Most misleading Republican ad: "Wasteful Spending," from
Most misleading Democratic ad: "Mosaic," from the Obama campaign. The ad accuses Romney of raising more than 1,000 taxes and fees as governor of Massachusetts, including one "on milk." Romney did raise permit fees for milk dealers and dairies but by such modest amounts that milk-loving toddlers and their parents didn't pay measurably higher prices as a result.
Most controversial ad (for now): "Come and Go," also from the Obama campaign. The ad charges that Romney, when he was at Bain Capital, "shipped jobs to China and Mexico." The Romney campaign says that isn't true. A Bain-owned company did move jobs from California to Mexico in 2000, but Romney was no longer running Bain at the time — although he still owned the firm.
For the Republicans, Crossroads GPS has aired commercials in states with hot
Silliest ad: Again, too many to list, but "America the Beautiful" from the Agenda Project, a liberal group, deserves a mention. The ad shows an unnamed Republican dumping an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff, a clumsy metaphor for proposed changes in Medicare.
Finally, a special award for misuse of "heroism" goes to "Thank You, Sen.
You can find links to these ads at latimes.com/campaign2012. But watching them is only the first step. You owe it to yourself and your fellow voters to see what the fact-checkers say too. My favorite nonpartisan monitoring group is FactCheck.org, but there are others. Don't take your own side's claims as gospel; they're cutting corners too.
Think those ads are bad? This campaign still has almost four months to go. If history is any guide, you ain't seen nothing yet. And when you see something you think is misleading or just plain wrong, please drop me a note.