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Political ads dissected and explained.
Nov. 4 2000 10:59 PM

Ready or Not

"Lead" was produced by the Campaign Company for Gore-Lieberman 2000. Click hereto view the ad at


From: Jacob Weisberg
To: William Saletan

Jacob Weisberg Jacob Weisberg

Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy. Follow him on Twitter.

If this ad seems nastier than George W. Bush's Parthian shot, the reason may have less to do with content than with tone. In "Nonsense," Bush calls Al Gore a liar, but does it with a measure of irony. "Lead," which is sort of the distilled essence of a negative ad, uses no such levity. It indicts Bush a social menace and a lightweight in the most direct and literal way possible.

The vision offered here is of Bush's Texas as hell on earth. The ad alternates an image of the Republican nominee with grim glimpses of life in his state. Everything in the ad contributes to a powerful sense of misery and dismay: the woozy, ominous piano music, the urgent voice of the announcer, the miasmic look of the brown-toned black-and-white footage. Bush himself is presented in super-slow motion in a way that renders his blank glance as steely glint of a hanging judge. Here is the full sequence of images and words:

1. Bush scowling ("As Governor, George W. Bush ...")

2. An oil derrick ("... gave big oil a tax break")

3. Bush scowling ("... while opposing health care")

4. Sick child in bed (" ... for 220,000 kids.")

5. Child with head on parent's shoulder ("Texas now ranks 50th in family health care.") 

6. Bush scowling ("He's left the ..."