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July 14, 2010

Big Oil Bob – A “Stone Cold” Entrance

Kevin E. Dayhoff

On July 9, 2010, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley released his first television commercial of this year’s featured main event for political junkies – the much-ballyhooed 2010 professional wrestling steel cage match that may be otherwise known as the Merryland gubernatorial election (re)cycle.


The television ad may be found here. Please do not mistake it for this video, which certainly may be much more representative of the months to come…………….


I’m back. I had to take another aspirin.


The ad, a masterful formulaic cacophony, is a “Stone Cold” entrance to the governor’s race, and comes shortly on the heels of the now infamous radio attack ad released by Governor O’Malley’s re-election campaign on or around June 21, which should prove, once and for all, that paper clips are the larval stage of coat hangers.


The threshold of my signal-to-noise ratio amazement has been moved once again.


The ad was dubbed the “Big Oil Bob, ad by Gazette columnist Blair Lee in a scathing piece which appeared in the paper June 25, “O'Malley in the gutter.”


“Big Oil Bob” attempted to associate his opponent, former-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., with the horrific environmental ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the BP deep-water drilling accident.




The Maryland Democrat Party wrote on June 17 that the radio ad, the second ad of the gubernatorial race, “‘Drill Baby, Drill’ exposes Bob Ehrlich’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Big Oil as thousands of gallons of oil continue to flow into the Gulf of Mexico each day…”


The ad fit the mold as a great example of what H. L. Mencken once said: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and hence clamorous to be led to safety] by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”


Mr. Lee wrote: “Maryland voters are used to a variety of low-level political dirty tricks: tearing down lawn signs, phony ballots, running a candidate with the same name as your opponent's and so on.


“But rarely do we witness a decision made at the very top to purposely deceive voters using a widespread media campaign based on complete falsehoods. But that's what Martin O'Malley just did. Virtually every facet of O'Malley's radio ad is either a gross misrepresentation or a lie.


“Let me count the ways: Bob Ehrlich is not, and never has been, a lobbyist. Nor has he done any legal work for oil companies… The ‘Big Oil Bob’ ad tells a lie about Ehrlich, but tells the truth about O'Malley.”




For once we wish that Mr. Lee would just say what he means… Even Mark Twain rose from the dead to criticize the ad, saying, “The only difference between fiction and nonfiction is that fiction should be completely believable.”


Well, Believe – The ad was simply unbelievable. Someone smarter than me once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” (Daniel Patrick Moynihan)


Of course, the irony of that ad is that many of the die-hard Republicans, who sat-out then-Governor Ehrlich’s re-election bid against then-Baltimore Mayor O’Malley in 2006, were angry at Governor’s Ehrlich’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund green-environmental initiative that was quickly and successfully dubbed the “flush tax.”


Remember, “The first radio ad aired by the O’Malley-Brown campaign, titled ‘Fantasyland,’ exposed Bob Ehrlich’s record spending increases during his administration…” first began hitting the airwaves on May 7, according to the Maryland Democratic Party.


In the first radio ad, according to Julie Bykowicz in a May 7 Baltimore Sun article: “The spot contends that Ehrlich had ‘record spending increases,’ bigger than either former Gov. William Donald Schaefer or former Gov. Parris N. Glendening. And, the narrator continues, Ehrlich raised more than “$3 billion in taxes and fees, including millions in property tax hikes on every business and family.”


In an election where Governor O’Malley’s record on the economy, jobs, unemployment, and the fall 2007 record tax increases are sure to be an election issue, why in the world would the governor run such an ad?


Why in the world did Governor O’Malley run the “Big Oil Bob” radio ad?


Bear in mind, what many superficial political pundits will not call to their readers’ attention is that gnawing dynamic that a large number of those registered Democrats in Maryland are conservative voters.


Historically, up until the last two decades or so, Maryland was run by conservative Democrats. The gubernatorial election will be decided by the middle-of-the-road voter who really does not care about partisan politics.


The challenge for both former-Governor Ehrlich and Governor O’Malley is to reach-out to the independents and conservative Democrat voter.


Anecdotally, it appears that those voters were offended by the ad. The Gulf is well over a thousand miles away and is way too far a stretch to be associated with a past governor who was successfully saddled with being responsible for the pro-environmental “flush tax.”


Is the repeated image of the oil gushing from a ruptured well over a mile deep in the Gulf a metaphor for the political season that is about to spew-forth barrels of crud(e) upon Maryland in the coming months?


Both candidates would be wise to realize that scorched-earth negative ads only work on either unsophisticated voters or the die-hard voters to the extreme right or the left.


Both candidates may want to take a memo: the middle-of-the-road voters – who will decide this election – are pretty sophisticated. They watch soccer and the Tour de France. They usually do not watch or identify with professional wrestling, and although Governor O’Malley has the arms and the abs of Steve Austin, and the looks of Drew McIntyre, he should not try to play the part on the radio or television.


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