Kerry turns Bush's carrier landing against him.

Political ads dissected and explained.
Nov. 13 2003 5:32 PM

Air Craft

Kerry turns Bush's carrier landing against him.

(Continued from Page 1)

I hate to be such a grouch about Kerry. He's done a lot of good work as a senator. He's had moments of tremendous bravery in the political arena as well as in war. He's often accused of duplicity when he's really just trying to be honest and thoughtful about the nuances of a difficult issue. But the guy just doesn't connect. If you want to sell him, you can't let him do the talking. You have to do it for him.

That's what this ad does. It reviews his career: his heroism in Vietnam, his expertise in national security and foreign affairs, his knowledge of tax and health care policy. It's a strong list. But people don't vote for a list. An ad is a chance to show them the candidate. In this case, they see the candidate in snippets but can't hear him. As you note, most of what they see is a senator gesturing in hearings. You could imagine similar footage of Edwards addressing a jury. He's doing something, but it's just a guy in a suit, talking.


What baffles me is the opening shot of Bush in military gear. I agree that the "Mission Accomplished" banner is now instantly embarrassing to the White House. But I don't think the same is true of Bush in the flight suit. The Dukakis tank ad worked because Dukakis looked ridiculous in the outfit immediately, and the ridiculous footage went on and on while the ad recounted all the military programs Dukakis had opposed. In this ad, Bush appears in the flight suit only briefly at the beginning, and he looks pretty swashbuckling, if you ask me. I'm tempted to conclude that Kerry's team chose this footage not to make Bush look ridiculous but to make him look too tough for Dean.

Kerry's five seconds at the end are painful to behold. His head sways from side to side as he lumbers toward the camera. His eyes are glazed. What he's looking at or thinking, I have no idea. The background—a corner of what appears to be a windowless, brick-walled room—leaves the impression that Kerry is trapped in some underground bunker where a squad of political consultants is forcing him to retake his line again and again. His voice is oddly high and soft, suggesting that something bad is happening to him, but he doesn't quite understand what. I don't want to vote for this man. I want to rescue him.

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

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.