Ad and subtract 

DROP AND DO TEN: A Halter ad.
  • DROP AND DO TEN: A Halter ad.

Ah, the last gasp of Campaign 2006! The light at the end of the tunnel!

But just when you thought it was safe to turn on the television again, here come the new campaign ads, with the players for statewide office hoping to rope in any fence-sitters with their panache — or at least blast their opponent with a face full of birdshot, Dick Cheney style. Though I don’t usually find much to admire during the campaign season, I do tend to pay a bit of attention to the television ads. Chuckle-, gasp- or eye-gouge-worthy, you’ve got to love the modern campaign advertisement: 30-second love letters that rich narcissists write to themselves.

During Campaign 2006, one set of ads I have particularly enjoyed was fielded by Bill Halter, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. I like Halter’s ads for two reasons. First, that he has to mention his grocery bagging experience in nearly every spot. Your resume has entries like “director of the Social Security Administration” and “Rhodes scholar,” and the thing you pick to play up involves wearing a “May I Help You?” nametag and a smock? I know he’s just trying to display his average-guy street cred, but what it says to me is: “Arkansas, vote for Bill Halter, and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your figurative, governmental white bread will never, ever get crushed by the family-sized soup can of partisan politics”

I also like Halter’s ads (one from his primary run, and a more recent one from his gubernatorial campaign) that feature him getting bossed around by his old high school football coach. Nothing says “S&M relationship” like an oak-faced geriatric making a dude in a tie do push-ups and run wind sprints. If Halter’s opponent Jim Holt had any money for fancy, “Jurassic Park”-style computer manipulation, he could maybe pull off a surprise win by just running Halter’s own “Coach” ads, only in slow motion and having superimposed a black leather mask with a zipper mouth over Halter’s head. Finish up with a little ominous music and a fade to black, and Holt would have every county north of Jacksonville pretty much wrapped up (you can see all of Halter’s ads, new and old, at his website: www.billhalter.com.).

While that might set a new low for Arkansas politics, this year’s award in that category has to go to Asa Hutchinson’s “Just Like Mike” television ad. You may have seen it: a bunch of youngsters looking into the camera, saying that when they grow up, they want to be wafflers, tax raisers, backslappers, word twisters, work ditchers and flip-floppers. “Just like Mike Beebe!” a couple of the kids say cheerily at the end.

First of all, that’s just wrong. Instead of talking smack about his opponent, Asa gathers up a bunch of people who still believe in Santa Claus and has them do it for him. As you know, child actors are the second-most desperate-for-work group in America, just behind grown-up child actors. Thrust a handful of dirt in a child actor’s sticky little paw, and he’ll happily eat it on camera, smiling around the gaps in his grin and dreaming that this is going to be the break that gets him a spot on Nickelodeon, a nasty drug habit, and a legal divorce from his do-nothing parent “managers” when he’s 14.

Another thing is, I’ve got a 6-year-old of my own. Promise him a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, and he’d testify before a Senate Committee that he was the second shooter on the Grassy Knoll. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m going to have him kick my archenemy in the balls because I’m too yella to do it.

In short, Hutchinson’s splattering a bunch of kids with his mud is plain old bad. We can only hope that, in later life, the tykes in that ad will channel their disillusionment and trauma into becoming gay, pot smoking, abortion-providing Supreme Court justices. That’ll show Asa what for.

(Footnote: While using bedwetters to do your dirty work is dastardly enough, even worse is the fact that Hutchinson’s ad rips off one of the worst politicians in history: namely, Ralph Nader. See a comparison at www.greasycreek.org.)

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