Ad Spot

Truth in political advertising

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
Sept. 7, 2003
An old friend of mine says you can't believe anything in an election year. I think that's a little harsh.
You can believe that come rain or shine the state's general election will be held on Nov. 4. You can believe that one of the two major party candidates for governor Democratic incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove or Republican nominee Haley Barbour will be elected. You can believe that far too few registered voters will actually cast ballots.
Beyond that, well, my old friend may have a point.
Gotta love it
I'm a self-confessed junkie when it comes to political advertising. I've seen tapes of the stuff from all over the country, even dabbled in the art a little myself back in the old days.
I love it because it illustrates the best and the worst of American political life. Political advertising includes truths, half-truths and innuendo, and builds or tears down images. Touting strengths and concealing weaknesses is a cherished political strategy.
But candidates ought to be careful at making claims that are easily dispatched by their opponent.
Barbour is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee where he presided, arguably, over campaigns that helped the GOP take control of Congress. Look for him to point out deceptions in Musgrove's advertising and public comments.
He's working in a fertile field.
Two examples from last week:
Quoting a Jan. 29 article in The Clarion-Ledger, a Barbour spokesman noted that college tuition has gone up 30 percent since Musgrove took office.
Jobs. A big issue again this year.
Musgrove's first television commercial of this political season was no sooner on the air than Barbour was disputing Musgrove's claim that he has created 56,000 new jobs in Mississippi since taking office in January 2000.
Again, the Barbour campaign turns to the media to prove its case.
It quoted a July 28 Associated Press report: "The state has lost 48,600 manufacturing jobs since January 2000 or 21.5 percent of all such jobs according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics." The report said because jobs of all categories combined were being lost at a faster pace than the economy was adding jobs, the state ended up with a net loss of 34,600 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
Truth at stake
Ah, more jobs being lost than created.
And in that nugget, dear readers, you get a glimpse into the Barbour campaign's strategy.
Musgrove doesn't tell it straight.
The Barbour campaign used an excerpt from a May 30 editorial in the Greenwood Commonwealth that posed a key question "What about the ones (jobs) that have disappeared?"
In a heat of an election campaign, candidates for high office sometimes exaggerate, misstate or otherwise distort reality. It's a great American tradition and, as we all know, voters have very short memories.