July 25th, 2006

White-Knuckle Notes on the Rainville Ad

by Philip Baruth

Working from a dial-up connection, and the kids are downstairs screaming that they want fried blood-pudding for lunch: welcome to life on the crags of the West Coast of Sweden.

So we will only have time for a few quick notes re: the new ad from the Rainville camp.

The sharpest effect is all but subliminal: bickering male voices give way to the deliberately calm, well-modulated voice of the female candidate.

But the spot goes precipitously downhill after that opening gambit. The worst move of all? The Rainville camp continues to deliberately echo words and phrases associated almost exclusively with George W. Bush.

Think about it. Under the strategic sway of Bill Noyes, Rainville began this campaign by talking endlessly about “finger-pointing.” Whenever Welch pointed out something genuinely troubling about her campaign financing or her campaign platform, Rainville dismissed the (valid) criticism as so much finger-pointing.

bush, in denialTrouble was that before Noyes purloined it, this odd little rhetorical bit was linked mostly with attempts by the Bush administration to distance itself from the Katrina debacle.

And now Rainville has picked up another deeply troubled phrase from the Decider: “Changing the tone.”

If you remember the Bush packaging circa 2000, it involved several related ideas. Bush was a uniter, not a divider. Bush had a history, so they said, of reaching across the aisle. And therefore, once he got to D.C., Bush would change the tone there, from loud and aggressive, to soft and harmonious.

How did that one work out for you?

Right. Bush proved himself a deeply duplicitous politician: he governed from the far-right from the get-go, and targeted senators who had compromised with him during his first year in office. Eventually he would use 9/11 to try to purge Democrats from Congress.

So as of today, July 25 2006, the phrase “change the tone” carries with it a powerful whiff of mendacity and political cynicism, no matter how sweet and reasonable the voice invoking it.

So if you run the Rainville camp, why do you deliberately structure your electoral end game around such a discredited scrap of language? Why not get your own sunny, empty bit?

The answer is right in front of you, and has been this entire cycle: the Rainville camp admires Bush, or at least his political skills.

They think his strategies are sound, and his poll-tested language will ultimately win the day. Who knows how conscious — sub-conscious, half-conscious? — this admiration runs. But it is an indisputable fact that the Rainvillians have directly echoed the man at every key juncture of the race thus far.

Now think about the sharp opening of the ad again: clueless male voices give way to the voice of a strong, independent woman. If that were really the case with Rainville, why would she so consistently and reliably speak in the voice of a President most Vermonters, and most Americans, have come to hold in mild contempt?

Why, in short, would she so stubbornly stand by her man?

One Response to ' White-Knuckle Notes on the Rainville Ad '

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to ' White-Knuckle Notes on the Rainville Ad '.

  1. on January 9th, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    […] The phrase was “changing the tone,” and Martha built an entire ad campaign around it, blissfully unaware that voters now associated it with Bush’s broken promise to foster genuine bipartisanship. […]