Bob Franken

Ki ng Features Column

(Same doo doo, different day day: The deal with thevsyndicators requires that this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

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       FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012
       It should be easy to see why the nation so badly needs quality, aggressive journalism and why so many partisans, particularly on the right, despise it. An informed electorate is vital to the success of a democracy and anathema to those mercenaries hellbent on distorting the issues and inflaming prejudice.
       The latest case in point is the New York Times story about the racist proposal circulating in one of those so-called super PACs. You know these organizations: Enabled by the infamous Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, they allow the very wealthy to crush the opposition. Meanwhile, their favored candidates are shielded from accountability for this often-scurrilous propaganda.
       But thanks to the Times, a hate campaign was exposed before it could foul the airwaves. It was a proposal circulated by Fred Davis, one of the consultants who makes tons of money practicing his profession’s dark arts.
       Davis was touting a $10 million expenditure for commercials that would again tie “Barack Hussein Obama,” as his memo was titled, to the rants of his former minister Jeremiah Wright. It would attempt to finesse the certain “bigotry” outcry by employing a black conservative to do the voice-over.
       The memorandum to the Ending Spending Action Fund made it clear it hadn’t been decided whether to launch by the leader of the PAC, Joe Ricketts, who, by the way, is the founder of Ameritrade.
       Suddenly, when Ricketts was flushed out, he abandoned the idea with back-stepping worthy of Mitt Romney. Even the possible beneficiary, Mitt, made sure he stayed clear.

       All of this raises some interesting possibilities: Are these super PACs just another tool for the ultrawealthy to maintain their stranglehold on a system that gives them so many unfair advantages. Or are some of these obese cats simply rubes, easy pickings for operators who make big bucks themselves by crafting demagoguery.
       We’ve all heard the put-down “If you’re so smart, how come you’re not rich.” In some of these cases, it should go, “If you’re so rich, how come you’re not smart?” Let’s face it, some of these people had one great idea in their lives, which paid off big-time, but now they’re easy marks for the hustlers who slither around the electoral con game.
       In hastily repudiating the Jeremiah Wright proposal, Romney clumsily tried to concoct a phony equivalence. He accused the Obama forces of engaging in “character assassination” with their focus on his role at takeover firm Bain Capital.
       Will someone please explain that exploring a candidate’s economic record is not the same thing as appealing to racism. These new ads are similar to the insidious Willie Horton ads against Michael Dukakis in 1988 that helped propel George Bush the First to the presidency.
       Lee Atwater, the designer of that series, made a lot of apologies for his amoral political tactics before he departed this earth, but this latest version simply demonstrates that sleazy tactics can always be expected to ooze up from the sewers.
       What is also sad is how so many news organizations take the lazy way out. Instead of spending the time and money (particularly the money) to root out the hidden scum, most of us simply report the “he said, she said,” and then fill time and space with moronic shouting matches.
       Every once in a while, though, we see a piece of enterprise, like the work of The New York Times or The Washington Post, which nailed the young Mitt bullying story. At least they provide a little information that might actually help us decide how we’ll vote instead of the usual disinformation.
       That will come from the spinmeisters who waltz in to spread their poisonous confusion. If they succeed, we have no one to blame for the mess we’re in but ourselves. And the bad guys will complete their victory in making this nation one that goes to the highest bidder once and for all.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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