Take Two #53: Campaign Ads and Subjective Truth

By Kyra-lin Hom

Is anyone else out there sick and tired of campaign ads or this entire campaigning season for that matter? It's one thing to try and educate the voting public about extremely pressing political matters. It's another entirely to smear the opposing side in a 30 second, emotion-invoking TV promo. At the rate this campaign season is going, third party fact-checking groups can barely keep up with all the glaring inconsistencies, truth-bending and outright lies.

Think I'm exaggerating? Give your google search engine its daily work out and look into it yourself. Websites like factcheck.org and politifact.com lay it out clear as day too. Most of the time candidates and campaign ads aren't 'lying' per se but are rather picking, choosing and bending the truth in very exacting ways. For example, one of Mitt Romney's campaign ads says that were Obama to be re-elected the national debt would rise from $16 to $20 trillion based on current projections. True. What that ad doesn't say is that even with all of Romney's proposed plans in place, our national debt would still rise to about an estimated $19 trillion were he elected president.

Coming from the other side, an Obama campaign ad states that he “ended the Iraq war” while Romney “would have left 30,000 troops there.” Technically this is also a true statement. However, the only reason Obama didn't leave a residual U.S. military force in Iraq was that the Iraqi government refused to back the motion. Oops.

Things aren't much better on our home front with Referendum 74 and the Inslee vs. McKenna election. In fact, we're getting downright nasty. The Seattle Times even managed to snag itself in the middle of both issues with its questionable $75,000 independent-expenditure campaign supporting (R) McKenna and Ref 74. For the record, this decision was made by the corporate side of the paper and is supposedly completely separate from its “journalism functions” (according to Alan Fisco, Seattle Times executive vice president). Regardless, the paper is now taking heat from both sides of the political spectrum – something I find wonderfully ironic.

So that I'm not doing what so many sly and admittedly subtler media propagators do, let me be very clear on where I stand politically. I am a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, generally moderate independent with a democratic lean. Oh, and because religion obviously has nothing to do with our national politics, I'm also a Christian.

There. Now you know my point of view (though this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone sticking with me from week to week – I'm not exactly the shy, quiet type). This stance kind of makes me a pro-small government hippy. I just want everyone to be accepting and happy, to be generally good people, and, for the most part, to let me do my thing undisturbed. This point of view of course sets me up perfectly to be frustrated with just about everyone in the American political spotlight right now. Go figure.

How is it that in Brazil utility companies, oil companies, native tribes, small businesses, political figures and environmentalists can all sit down together in one meeting and calmly plan a mutually beneficial future for Brazil's rainforests (true story) when we can't even get two opposing sides to work together? Our political debates possess disturbing resemblances football matches between historical rivals. Players and fans alike aren't looking for an everybody wins scenario. They're all just plotting the best way to bury their opponents in the dirt. It's too bad our current government doesn't actually function that way. A House of Representatives vs. Senate winner-takes-all football match would certainly jump start us out of political grid-lock. If nothing else, it would give their positions on national healthcare a personal touch.

It's truly unfortunate when really important issues are sabotaged by their own supporters. Based on what I've seen lately, people are often either too impassioned to keep a level head or more concerned with appearances than effectiveness and the greater good. Trust me, I know all about the wrong sides of both these behaviors, but just because my expectations might be hypocritical doesn't mean they're unreasonable. After all, I'm a 23 year-old writer not a middle-aged politician or even a politically or socially active civilian. Is it wrong for me to expect more from our world leaders (activists included)? I don't think so. Not one bit. They chose that life and that responsibility. And it's beyond time for them to own that.

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