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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.


Mayberry 10 years, 6 months ago

Ron Paul received contributions from over 100,000 different people this quarter. He received $18,000,000 from those 100,000 people. His support is wide and deep. Look around your town and notice you see RP signs everywhere. Grab a cup of coffee and go to http://freeme.tv

David Lignell 10 years, 6 months ago

Great post! It prompted me to take a look at Mike Huckabee's ad for the first time. (I usually don't watch the TV ads because they annoy me.) Yep, it's a cross masquerading as a bookcase, or vice versa. No matter. Pretty clever, though. Still, you're correct; any novice producer would have spotted the faux pax, unless of course it was intentional.

I'd comment further on the candidates but I'm still trying to figure out when (and where) my tax money will trickle down to me from the Reagan era.

floppydog 10 years, 6 months ago

I personally don't care about the floating cross. What bothers me is that Huck is a manipulative liar, and he thinks people are okay with him passing off as "he didn't know." Give me a break, we know full well that he's doing this stuff to win over the evangelical Christians. The floating cross across the screen is one example, his comment about Mormon's beliefs a couple weeks ago was another. As a former minister of the Southern Baptist convention (SBC), I don't know how he can say he doesn't know much about the Mormon's when there are dozens of anti-Mormon articles on the SBC website. So he's either a manipulative liar, or totally ignorant and unaware of what's going on. Two great characteristics of someone I don't want in the white house.

floppydog 10 years, 6 months ago

Oh, one other thing, just to drive home the point. It doesn't bother me that he attacks non-Christians, or that he attacks Mormons. What bothers me is that he does this and tries to make it look like he isn't. Most of us want the religion factor taken out of this campaign. I'm one of those, so to be clear, this is all commentary on his character, and has nothing to do with his faith, or his attacking of other faiths. I don't trust him in the least bit.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 6 months ago

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.

Yes, it's a secret cross...despite the fact that it's an openly christian ad. If you look real close, you'll notice a secret christmas tree too.

Conspiracy nuts!

Jerry Elliott 10 years, 6 months ago

insightful observations, marlo. hope you and your family had a great christmas.

Mkh 10 years, 6 months ago

That cross was obviously put in Huckabee's ad on purpose in my opinion as a filmmaker who has extensively studied propaganda. To say that it was an aciddent is incredibly naive to me and something only an absolute fool would believe.

What I don't understand is why the Huckabee campaign lied about it instead of just saying, "Yes, it was meant to look like a cross next to a Christmas tree, it's a fricking Christmas ad by a Baptist Preacher!" Why wouldn't he put a cross in his ad about Christmas?

I have no problem with Huckabee promoting Christianity, it's what I expect from him and the others in the "Christian Right". But he just needs to be open and honest about the writing on the wall, this innocent farm boy act is terrible and completely phony.

Ron Paul is the only real candidate in this race.

antney 10 years, 6 months ago

Blink. Political adds are designed to be overtly vague while subconciously priming you with the desired messages. Bill Clinton mastered this style in 1992 and it has become standard practice in political advertising. Because, when it comes to voting and one still has doubts, the subconcious kicks in and makes our decisions base on what is most compatible to our own values. The images in Huckabee's video was strategically place to shape his image as your average Christian- unlike Romney the Mormon and Gulliani the less-than-Christian New Yorker.
Religion plays a big role in this election. Can't wait to see what the GOP dishes out they run against Obama (without appearing racist or bigotted of course).

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 6 months ago

funny what a diffrence a year makes last year the very thought of a polo. say merry christmas or having santa around was a death sentence.

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