Monday, March 12, 2012

Standing Up for the 80.9% [Updated]

    Recently, the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign came out with a new web ad with a photo of the first family with the slogan "Help the Obamas stand up for working Americans."  Three problems came to light almost immediately.  First, the Obamas are sitting down in the photo.  

OK, yes, kind of nitpicky, but still, this is public relations/Madison Avenue stuff that is supposed to come second nature to the Obama team.  This is sort of the reverse of Joe Biden in 2008 calling on a supporter in a wheelchair to "stand up, Chuck!"  There is a Keystone cops feel to it that doesn't foster confidence.
    Second, the Obamas have been very insistent that their daughters remain shielded from the political fray, but here they are in a campaign ad in the midst of the election season.  Obviously, it's their choice, but it is seemingly at odds with the wall of separation between daughters and politics that the Obamas have built in the past.
    Third, the photo itself was the subject of scrutiny because it was taken by the official White House photographer, and such photographs are generally off limits for campaign literature.  As Politico notes, the photo (still available on Flickr) continues to carry this warning:
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Oddly, the warning leaves open the possibility that opponents of the president could legitimately use the photo since it only proscribes uses suggesting "approval or endorsement." (Could I be in violation since I am not a "news organization" in the traditional sense?)  Presumably no opponent would be foolish enough to use the photo in a negative way, especially with Michelle and the daughters in picture.  But it would arguably be less of an infringement than the Obama campaign's usage.
    But there is a fourth problem that has gone largely unaddressed, and it has to do with the appeal to "help the Obamas stand up for working Americans."  Is this an implicit acknowledgement that the president has thrown in the towel on the unemployed and will only stand up for those Americans who are working?  Again, this might seem nitpicky, but perception is reality in politics.  With the president's less than stellar record on jobs, does the campaign really want the 19.1% un- and under-employed wondering is the president is "standing up" for them?  It’s quite possible that this unintended message occurred to the Obama campaign also, because not only does a search of the campaign website for the slogan come up almost empty, but the one place where the picture still appears has been scrubbed of the "working Americans" reference.
    With the president facing low approvals, high disapprovals, a struggling economy, and growing foreign policy headaches, a well run campaign will be a must.  This stumble out of the gate cannot be encouraging to those looking for another four years for the president.  No doubt they will be hoping for a change.

UPDATE:  Based on this story in the Washington Free Beacon, it would appear that the US International Longshoremen’s Association agrees with my interpretation of the slogan:  UNION NAMES CHINESE PREMIER 'BEST FRIEND OF AMERICAN WORKER'

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