And so, Air America launches, with Al Franken's commentary in the LA Times:
To the Moon, George, to the MoonBut Al and the gang should spend no time patting themselves on the back. Just read the arrogant protestations of those who, in their own pious words, have zilch to fret about -- just ask 'em!
by Al Franken
On Jan. 14, 2004, President Bush announced his bold vision for America's space program. He vowed to return to the moon and then "to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond."
Only six days later, Bush gave his State of the Union address. He talked about his economic plan, which had created about 1,000 new jobs in the previous month alone. And about the dozens of "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" found by David Kay, 12 of which were coloring books. And about the dangers of steroids and the importance of sexual abstinence. (The Bush team dodged a bullet on this one. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been slated to sit next to First Lady Laura Bush, but was removed two minutes before the speech when a media-savvy aide realized that would make for an embarrassing cutaway shot.) But nowhere in the president's address was there any mention of Mars, let alone sending a person to it.
Now, telling the nation you're sending a man to Mars is not like telling the kids you're taking them to Applebee's. The kids get all excited, looking forward to the curly fries. If you stay home, yes, they're disappointed, but it's not that big a deal. Mars is different. Unveiling a mission to Mars and then not mentioning it less than a week later in the State of the Union address suggests a certain casualness in our president's approach to governing the world's only remaining superpower. I don't know much about space travel, but I bet it takes more than six days' focus to get a man to Mars.
He clearly dropped Mars because the idea tested even more poorly than his faith-based Bureau of Weights and Measures. But why didn't anyone make fun of him for it?
Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had done this? The right-wing media would have been all over him. "This is the most poll-driven, purely political administration in history!" they would have crowed. It would have started with Rush Limbaugh, then reverberated through the right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media until it finally landed on an op-ed page like this one.
But when Bush did it, no one made a peep. Bush got a pass on this, as he's gotten a pass on so many other things, because there's no liberal echo chamber in this country. But starting today at noon, there will be one.
Liberals on Talk Radio? Don't Make Us LaughBut one must ask (and I do) -- if all the right-wingers say is true, then why waste so many words on something that is doomed from its moment out the gate? Sure, conservative "talk" radio and its movement was not built in a day, but they didn't get there by not trying, either.
by Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke
Will liberals succeed in talk radio? Air America Radio goes on the air today in an attempt to prove that they can. We are two right-wing media veterans who say to them: Good luck — you're going to need it!
Talk radio is a medium for expressing clear-cut, black-and-white, passionately articulated views. Nuances don't work. But as Roger Craver, the dean of direct-mail liberal fundraising, told us: Liberals "have this Y chromosome that looks for balance and dignity and decency…. They don't know how to go for the jugular. That's one reason why liberals haven't done well in mass communications." [...]
Success in this realm also requires a long-term commitment. Conservatives didn't build their "alternative media" empire overnight. It was the result of decades of hard work — mastering direct mail in the 1970s, talk radio in the 1980s, and cable television and the Internet in the 1990s. Yet Franken reportedly has signed only a one-year contract and says "I'm doing this because I want to use my energies to get Bush unelected. I'd be happy if the election of a Democrat ended the show."
That attitude doesn't bode well for Air America. If all they want to do is elect Kerry, their money would be better spent buying radio and TV time, not starting a new network.
Air America requires a mass ideological movement to sustain it, and if a robust liberal movement exists today, it can teach the Air Force something about stealth. Calling its potential audience "progressive" — rather than "liberal" — fools no one. And the network shouldn't confuse the battles between Democrats and Republicans with building a movement. Partisan fervor lasts for four years max; a movement, as we said, requires decades.
The latest news for liberals in this regard is dismal. Hal Malchow, a leading fundraiser for the Democratic Party, told us: "The size of the donor list on the liberal side has been shrinking. A lot. The basic liberal universe that's available to the DNC [Democratic National Committee] right now is probably around a half-million to 600,000 unique names that we don't have yet as donors. Ten years ago it would have been a million, million-and-a-half names." By way of comparison, the Republican Party solicits new donors from conservative lists totaling 5 million or more names.
Fear of black-and-white positions. Short-term myopia. Inadequate capitalization. A shrinking audience. It doesn't look good for Air America.
Finally, sometimes distraction alone is a great tool -- and Franken, in this regard, is the perfect foil. Keep talking about Franken, folks. It will raise his rating and take your eye off the ball -- defeating John Kerry.
So three cheers! Franken is fierce, so Bill O'Reilly and the rest better not make the mistake of thinking he is some Alan Colmes. On its maiden voyage, may Air America have a great journey!
Holy Gasoline, Bushman!
Amazing, isn't it, the cajones that Karl Rove (Fascist-DC) and the Bush campaign have - putting up yet another vicious attack ad - this one insinuating that a Kerry administration would raise taxes on gasoline. The point of the ad is to play on voters' current concerns over obscene pump prices.
Personally, I give the American public more credit. They know Bush and Cheney come from oil backgrounds...and John Kerry knows it as well, saying this to a crowd in San Francisco where regular unleaded gas is well over $2.00 a gallon:
"These are not Exxon prices -- those are Halliburton prices...This one could come back to bite Bush right in his Texas butt. Gas prices are likely to go UP by Memorial Day - perhaps above $3.00 a gallon in some places - and that would more than likely bring on a sort of "Carter-syndrome:" An energy policy that doesn't sit well with the voting public.
...You have to give this administration credit because they clearly understand the connection between gas prices and the economy... their approach to a solution of these high gas prices is just to make sure no one has a job to drive to."
Up and Down
The release of Richard Clarke's book "Against All Enemies" and subsequent media coverage, plus a week of public hearings on the 9/11 issue, have (as expected) eroded President Bush's approval rating on the terrorism issue, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. But it seems voters are just as weary with John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Kerry's decision to take a week long vacation, while hard to begrudge after a front-loaded primary season, meant that vicious attack ads from the Bush campaign went unanswered. So far, the Bush campaign has spent more than $20 million on the ads, which began airing March 4.
The ads helped wipe away Kerry's huge lead in 17 key "battleground states." A survey taken in mid-February showed Kerry led the President by 28 percentage points in those states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in the same 17 states by six points, 51% to 45%.
Meanwhile, President Bush's normally strong standing with voters on the terrorism issue has been damaged by the testimony (and new book) of former White House aide Richard Clarke and the scrutiny of the 9/11 commission. The current poll shows a 53% majority saying they think the Bush administration is "covering up something" about its handling of intelligence information before the attacks.
The Bush campaign is betting the farm on the perception of the Prez as a strong leader in the wake of September 11; it's the only issue in which a clear majority approve of Bush's performance, such that it is. If Georgie Boy's ratings go South on this issue then the election is as good as over.
But, back to Kerry. The Bush ads seemed to be quite powerful. A majority of those polled in the states where the ads ran echoed the Bush "themes" about Senator Kerry: 57% say Kerry has changed positions for political reasons, and 58% say their federal taxes will go up if he's elected. And the percentage who say he's "too liberal" has jumped from 29% in February to 41% now.
It doesn't help that the Democratic nominee is to undergo shoulder surgery later in the week. That will keep him from campaigning full time for a week or two (at the very least) and gives the Republicans another chance to define him on their own terms.
Some advice to the Kerry campaign: The Senator himself needs to pre-authorize and pre-record some of his own commercials and have them ready to go by this weekend. Don't give Karl Rove another "free week" of unanswered attack ads.
Some advice to readers who would rather not see Bush "re"-elected: Contribute! A few bucks to the Kerry campaign and to MoveOn.org would go along way toward going toe to toe with the GOP money machine. Ads need to go up now and stay on the air straight through to November. Even if you can only give $5 or $10, every little bit helps.