BOLD-FACE: Really, guys, it doesn't sound so tough | WisCommunity

BOLD-FACE: Really, guys, it doesn't sound so tough

Whatever else you may think of Milwaukee County Executive candidate Chris Abele, let's just take a moment to acknowledge that he's getting the same kind of focus-group-tested media consulting as a lot of big-time politicians. 

How do I know? Because today, I received the Abele campaign's latest email, in which at one point Abele says:

Earlier today, I announced my bold plan to make Milwaukee County one of the best places to do business in the country. 

Now, if I ever hear another lawmaker or candidate for public office using that word "bold" again, I'm going to do a Captain Binghamton, the hapless commander on the old "McHale's Navy" sitcom. Yes, clenching my teeth, I'll mutter: "I could just scream."

It not only sounds unnatural but also disingenuous for a public figure to say "my bold plan" or "my bold administration" or, as in the case of Gov. Walker, a promise that his team is going to "be bold.": Even George W. Bush kept telling us he was taking "bold" action.

Cripes, it all sounds like a beer commercial.

Of course we voters are not idiots. We assume that people running for public office and in public office think highly of their own proposals. We assume they think they are special, different and more visionary. But to hear them pronounce themselves and their plans as "bold" is to feel like coughing up a hair ball. It's not at all humble. And it's not authentic. 

Here's a tip from a campaign-weary activist: Don't rely on adjectives. Rely on substance. Just tell us in simple declarative sentences what your plan is. We'll figure out if it's bold, but probably only after it's implemented and we've watched it in action awhile. We don't need you to tell us what you're going to do is bold. Hey, who out there is running for office who promises, "My tepid, half-assed, probably unworkable plan will ... ."

Of course, the candidates are just trying to win, and increasingly they listen to the advice of media consultants. Nothing wrong with people who know how to think and write contributing their talents to campaigning. We could use more of that, actually. But what is wrong is when the consultants --- dudes like GOP spinmeister Frank Luntz -- actually spend most of their time testing out catch words and key phrases and themes and then talk candidates into running with it.  

Well, here's another taste of reality, kids: Candidates are not soap flakes or even deodorant. If you buy the product you see in the ads, you're not going to smell sweeter or find more money in your wallet. You're buying an image, not a person.

By the way, another word that makes me turn green is "frankly." Frankly, whenever a politician begins a sentence with that word, you can reliably assume he's about to lay some heavy BS on you. What are we to make of any politician who willfully uses a placeholder word like "frankly" to suggest that right now, this instant, for once in his tawdry career, he is going to tell us a seriously important truth? Well, we're going to assume that the rest of the time, and especially perhaps this time, he's lying through his teeth.

Newt Gingrich used to use "frankly" quite often, and look where it got us, and him. Gingrich was also the crass political innovator who in 1994 issued a memo through his GOPAC political front. The title of the memo was "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control." It was distributed to Republicans and contained a list of words with negative connotations that Republicans should use to describe Democrats. Words like destructive, destroy, sick, pathetic, lie, liberal, they/them, and, my favorite, unionized bureaucracy. 

Gingrich didn't offer up "bold" as a positive word to use for Republicans, but somewhere along the line it came into vogue anyway.

Nowadays the buzzword of choice, when you want to indicate you're being very serious and solemn,is to begin a declaration with "look," as in, "Look, the simple fact is that Dem-crats are trying to bring Sharia law to this country."

But I digress. Mr. Abele may be a very able fellow. I may even vote for him. But let's hope he doesn't promise to boldly go where no politician has gone before. Because most of them actually have gone there.


January 31, 2011 - 5:08pm