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Merry Christmas From Your Candidates
'Tis the season for eating too much cookies, maxing out your credit cards and, wait a minute: groan inducing political ads?Now that the Iowa Caucuses have been moved up to January 3rd, campaigning has spilled onto the holiday and left us with these sometimes humorous, occasionally embarrassing media clips. And, yes, Virginia, there actually is one that touches on the true meaning of Christmas. It all started with a seemingly innocent bookcase. Mike Huckabee's ad caused quite a stir when a cross shaped bookcase was seen behind his head while he spoke about Christmas. People wondered whether this was an overt evangelical message or merely a coincidence. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this Christian propaganda, but the filmmaker side of me does find it hard to believe that no one called this "coincidence" to the candidate's attention during the filming. With directors, production designers and cinematographers involved in even the most basic productions, there are usually a lot of eyes on the video tap to pick up on visual symbols, intentional or not. Moving on to the more innocuous, meet-the-family ads: Barack Obama and Ron Paul both had some serviceable spots with the obligatory cute family members getting in the holiday spirit. These festive ads are meant to show us that they are not just politicians but, in fact, "real guys." I think it would have been more real to see them loafing on the coach after turkey dinner or getting into arguments with family members, but that's just me.John Edwards took the gig more seriously and drove home the issue of those without homes. This somewhat dour message stood in contrast to his soft lighting and cheerful sweater. I think if you are going to take a gritty approach to the holiday you should get out of the studio and hit the streets. Use the visual medium of television to get your hands dirty. Unless you are afraid of messing up that $3,000 haircut. Moving on, the next two political ads are quite simply in bad taste. With a forced attempt at humor, Hillary Clinton finds a gift under her tree for universal pre-K. It just feels condescending. A gift from her? Aren't we the taxpayers? But even this wasn't as bad as Giuliani's Jerry Lewis impression as he tries to ham it up with Santa over fruit cakes. Come on guys, leave the acting to Fred Thompson.Last but not least is John McCain's Christmas ad. I was a little skeptical at the opening- a slow motion image of McCain's POW days. It set the stage for something a bit heavy handed. But then, he tells a heartfelt story about how his guard wrote a cross in the dirt on Christmas day. He touched on the universality of Christmas and left us with the feeling that he is just the guy to bridge cultural gaps. There was nothing subliminal, false or cornball here. I couldn't help but remember that episode of "30 Rock" where Tina Fey says there's an 80% chance she'll tell her friends she voted for Barack Obama when she actually voted for John McCain. So, take them or leave them, love them or hate them, it just goes to show you politics don't take a holiday. Personally, I was hoping that Mitt Romney would have had an ad where he said he "saw" his father ride with Santa Claus, but you can't get everything on your list.