Politics playing like a bad soap opera
Maybe it’s always been this way, but if we were to distill the American way of life to a collection of political ads aired on television circa 2010, we’d come off like a bad soap opera.
It’s not just a matter of mud-slinging -- which seems to have become de rigueur -- it’s now a matter of high drama and intrigue – as least in the Coastal Bend. I’m not watching TV in San Antonio or Austin or Dallas, but I can tell you the commercials here are bad – ba-a-a-d. The grainy, shadowy photos, the sinister voice inflections – it all reminds me of a melodrama I wrote with fellow students in eighth grade English class, “But the Drain is Clogged!” Bad. Bad, bad, bad.
Lacking are candidates who promote themselves and their qualifications. Instead, we have an abundance of candidates who tout the shady sides of their opponents. Why, we are led to believe that women, children and household pets are in danger from these rascally characters, and here to save the day is the Candidate on a White Horse.
Voters with half a brain should be offended that a candidate thinks they are so shallow and ill-informed as to believe this garbage.
Voters with half a brain may take information (if that’s what it is) in these mini-television soap operas and do a little research to decide what’s fact or fiction. That’s if they can.
In the case of Gov. Rick Perry, it won’t be easy. He has refused to talk to the editorial boards of newspapers, claiming newspapers are passé. His message to voters is one he can control via the social media or TV advertising.
He won’t debate Bill White, his Democratic opponent, unless White reveals income tax returns from the period when he served as deputy U.S. energy secretary. Maybe White should come forth with those returns, but his declining to do so is no reason not to stand up to a debate. In fact, Perry could press that issue in a live debate and really put White on the spot.
To his credit, Perry has participated in a question and answer series that has been published by the Scripps newspaper chain, which owns the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Trying to get specific answers about specific issues has proven difficult. Bill White’s responses to the Scripps queries often included a referral to his Web site. I went there and didn’t find the answers, so I readily agreed to an interview with his daughter, Elena.
Her answers to my questions were general and, for the most part, a recitation of what you hear in her father’s ads.
However, she was honest, and admitted she didn’t know the answers to some of my specific questions. She referred me to a member of the campaign, to whom I e-mailed a list of detailed questions. The responses I got were on the vague side, but to be fair, in some cases that is to be expected from someone on the “outside” who does not have the advantage of incumbency to know all the ropes.
I’ll be honest: I don’t like Rick Perry’s attitude toward newspapers, which I think is a reflection of his attitude toward voters (“Give me your vote and get out of my way.”) I don’t like the fact that he won’t open himself up to unregulated questioning. His Web site was even less informative than White’s.
All that piques my interest in Bill White.
I understand White intends to work with a bipartisan group of legislators “to ensure that local school districts are getting the resources they need,” but his campaign did not commit the candidate to finding a funding method for public education that does not put the onus on so-called “rich” school districts. The campaign says White will work with local leaders and lawmakers to implement a plan that “fairly distributes education money.”
As far as the proposal for an earlier start to the school year, which would have a negative impact on tourist-based economies, the White campaign said he would return more control to local school boards so they can determine the calendar.
A big issue for Port Aransas is the proposal to cut the state’s tourism budget. White’s campaign says he has not said he would eliminate that budget or any current program. He will consider cutting a segment of advertising funds under the governor’s office.
Windstorm is another big issue in Port Aransas, and while Elena White did not specifically address that in response to my question, she did say her father favors legislative approval of insurance premium increases for which justification is provided.
[Full disclosure: Bill White had an ad two weeks ago in the South Jetty. It was what we call an “insert” as opposed to what we call ROP (run of press – ads placed on the pages of the newspaper). Neither an insert nor an ROP ad would be enough to “buy” my vote – no ad has ever “bought,” or ever will, “buy” my vote.]
Meanwhile, the politicians on TV – all of ’em -- are makin’ me sick!
Mary Henkel Judson is editor and copublisher of the South Jetty. Contact her at email@example.com, (361) 749-5131 or P.O. Box 1117, Port Aransas, TX 78373.