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March 9, 2004

Can’t Buy Me Love (Or: Is There A Real Fireman In The House?)

Because the Presidential election is so far away, and there is only so much news to report, one of the current punditry themes involves questioning the conventional campaign wisdom.

The question I like best right now involves how much of an advantage Bush’s war chest really is.

In an article in the NYT the other day, Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, was quoted as saying: “The roadside of American politics is littered with candidates who raised the most money.”

I think the President’s war chest has already begun to show its lack of significance (and, even possibly, disadvantage).

The best example is Bush’s first set of campaign commercials (an investment of between $4 -6 million). Of course, with the antagonism the 9/11 families are feeling toward the Administration over the 9/11 commission, and with Kerry and the Democrats in a “take-no-prisoners” mood, the Trade Center imagery in the ads made for an “easy” point of contention.

What’s more interesting, however, is how these costly commercials continue to unravel. The latest flap, reported by Newsweek, involves the use of actors–rather than the real thing–to play New York City firemen.

It would be a typical “knee-jerk” reaction to accuse Bush and Co. of using actors, but I don’t think the practice is that unusual. What is significant, I believe, is why people would be attracted to this information right now. It’s significant because of how beautifully it reveals Bush’s interest in symbols at the expense of the things they symbolize.

At a time when the public is taking a more unvarnished look, it shows how much Bush is an act.

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