Category Archives: Media Bias

A Tea Party with the Wizard of Oz

In the classic film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s diminutive dog Toto pulls back the curtain in the Emerald City to reveal the Wizard is nothing but a grand illusion. The Wizard uses smoke, mirrors and high tech equipment to appear larger than life, all knowing and omnipresent.

Some members of the Tea Party, and the final few members of the media who haven’t completely abdicated their media credentials, must feel like Toto this week with the disclosure of the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Indeed this has been a bad week for the Administration, with the Benghazi attack and AP phone tapping issues coming to the fore. But nothing resonates as quickly or as viscerally with the American public as revelations that the IRS is crawling up the pant legs of Americans like a horde of fire ants.

We know from Watergate lore that President Nixon used the IRS to target groups on the left. What we may not remember is that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and even Bill Clinton also used the IRS to target groups they deemed in opposition to their agenda. Remember the “vast right wing conspiracy?” There seems to be a pretty consistent theme that has developed over the last 70 or so years: an expanding federal government uses its investigative and tax powers to quash dissent.

A lot of my liberal friends chide me for the “divisive” and “uncooperative” nature of the Tea Party and its “horrible” influence on the country’s politics. They have been oddly silent this week. I’m wondering how they’d feel if the horde of IRS fire ants were crawling up the pant leg of their favorite charity, non-governmental agency or liberal public policy organization.

The revelations of this week will also have a direct impact on one (potentially the only) signature piece of legislation the President has ever passed, the Affordable Health Care Act. To “enforce” the new law, the IRS is slated to add almost 2,000 new employees. There are almost 50 “major” changes to the IRS Code to implement the new law. The IRS Inspector General calls those changes “the largest set of tax law changes the IRS has had to implement in more than 20 years.”

What could be more troubling? The IRS is establishing a sophisticated databases to “monitor compliance” with the AHCA. Working in concert with federal departments (Social Security, Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services) and state governments, the IRS is establishing the “Federal Data Services Hub” to verify identity, residency, employment, income, criminal history and enrollment in entitlement programs.

Please, someone go fetch Toto. I’ll put the water on. Looks like we’ll need more tea.

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Filed under Legislative Affairs, Media Bias, Public Affaris

The Steve King I Know…

I noted with interest an online article from today’s Des Moines Register regarding Congressman Steve King and his impending decision regarding a race for the US Senate.

Much of my political career has been to help position candidates so that in the hustle and bustle of a campaign, voters can get to know the real essence of who they are as people. Behind the sound bites, behind the policy pronouncements…who are these people? Are they candidates that reflect well on us and whom we can trust to make sometimes momentous decisions on our behalf?

Today’s article on Congressman King by my friend Bill Petroski does just that. Bill is a great writer, experienced and quick on the draw. He can get to the nerve center of an issue quickly and he did so in this article.

Congressman King shows that he is weighing this seriously. He’s a man who built his construction business with the strength of his hands, the sweat of his brow and sheer will. He uses a construction analogy to show exactly how methodically he’s going about his assessment. Regardless of his ultimate decision, his methodology speaks very well of his character and his decision making.

The public perception of candidates often varies greatly with their private side. I’ve seen this over and over and it’s the fundamental challenge presented to communication and media assistants.

There is a wide gap between how Congressman King is portrayed by many partisans and members of the media, and the man I’ve gotten to know.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with Congressman King in the Iowa Senate and on his congressional campaigns. He’s a man of deep convictions, big ideas and an unbridled source of pride in all things Iowa. He is a son of Iowa, a man who knows all good things come from the land and the people of Iowa.

I’ve also had even more fun with Congressman King in other settings, like his annual pheasant hunt. There is perhaps no better place to get to know a man than standing shoulder to shoulder in a hunting stand for several hours. Far from the trappings of office and with your boots planted firmly in Iowa’s abundant soil, you can measure each other pretty quickly. I held my own in those stands, but I will always take a back seat to Congressman King’s quick eye and more accurate aim.

Congressman King will make his decision in due time, after weighing all the facts presented to him. No matter what he decides, he’ll be putting his constituents, his issues and his state first. He’s been a great Congressman, he would be an outstanding US Senator and I’ll be following his decision closely.

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Filed under Media Bias, Paid Media, Public Affaris

Under Discussion: Big Business or Small Business

On my recent appearance on WHO-TV Insiders with Dave Price, we spent a lot of time discussing where the Iowa’s emphasis should lie in business generation: Big Business or Small Business. Our extended conversation on this topic can be found here: WHO-TV Insiders

To answer the question, I said “both,” and I think there are many examples of how the Branstad Administration has developed an atmosphere that will attract both big and small businesses. The best example, in my opinion (and, I admit, I’m biased) is Google. The successful partnership between Iowa and Google was highlighted earlier this week in the Omaha World Herald. A worldwide brand, the company has now invested over $1.1 billion in Iowa.

But more importantly, Google has gone above and beyond with the support of small business in Iowa with their Iowa Get Your Business Online efforts. Several thousand Iowa small businesses have benefitted from Google’s and Intuit’s partnership to help businesses get an online presence.

The State’s emphasis on attracting business doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game between Big Business and Small Business. It can, and will, attract both if it continues its sensible path to creating the right atmosphere for investment.

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Filed under Media Bias, Public Affaris

Under Discussion: The ‘Usefulness’ of the Iowa Straw Poll

On Sunday, I was a guest on WHO-TV’s “Insiders” program, hosted by Dave Price. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dave over the years as he’s covered politics in Iowa, and he’s one of the shining stars in Iowa journalism. We covered a number of topics in our exchange, one of which was the current discussion over the fate of the Iowa Straw Poll.

The discussion about the fate of the Straw Poll is getting a lot of attention nationally, as well as inside of Iowa. The Governor thinks the event has “outlived its usefulness.” The Republican Party of Iowa has responded with a surprising level of vitriol to his statements.

I’ve had a lot of personal experience with the Straw Poll, traditionally held in Ames. I led the organizational efforts for Texas Senator Phil Gramm in 1995, who miraculously tied Senator Bob Dole that year. In 1999, I led Steve Forbes’ efforts when he placed second to George W. Bush, who won the Straw Poll and went on to become our 43rd President. In 2007 and 2011, I worked with the Republican Party of Iowa to produce the staging, video, lighting and audio elements of the show inside of Hilton Coliseum.

As someone who has been inside and outside the Ames Straw Poll, I have to agree with the Governor. My comments on “Insiders” are highlighted in the segment WHO Insiders, Part 3.

We’re coming off an election where Republicans were soundly drubbed due in large part to organizational weaknesses. Many, if not most, of the great organizational and tactical strides we made in the 2010 elections were cast aside or forgotten.

The Governor identified one of the white elephants in the room: The fate of the Straw Poll is just one of many issues the GOP has to address as it charts a course forward. The Governor deserves credit for being bold enough to start the process.

(Note: My Democratic counterpart on the show corrected me when I likened the Harkin Steak Fry to the Straw Poll. Its cousin in Democratic circles would be the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. There’s a solid reason I’m not asked to opine on Democratic political machinery.)

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Filed under Media Bias, Public Affaris, Reputation Management

Real Problems at the Root of Fake Scenario

The movie “Janeane from Des Moines” has created a lot of headlines recently. Everyone from the New York Times to Iowa’s home-grown newspaper, The Des Moines Register, has mentioned the issues brought up in this mockumentary.

With our state’s “first in the nation” status, Iowans have the coveted role of meeting political candidates in-person, asking them tough questions and sharing our vision with the rest of the country. We welcomed these candidates into our homes, we introduced them to our friends and we established a bond with them that goes well beyond Election Day. We put our trust and hopes in these candidates to lead us, to make our country a better place to live and work.

One only has to look back over the past few months, with the almost unprecedented presence of President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan to see the impact Iowa can have on any given national election. Just last night in his final campaign stop for the 2012 election, President Obama praised Iowa voters for their intellect, their passion and their commitment to the process, Regardless of your political party, those were compliments that should make all Iowans quite proud.

We know the candidates aren’t perfect — they are human after all. But, we do rely on them to have some responses and solutions to the problems weighing voters down. So, when we saw first-hand evidence that candidates struggled with how to respond to voters’ very personal appeals for help, it really shook our beliefs in the people and in the system.

That’s why “Janeane from Des Moines” has really created waves. It pointed out those flaws, and it made those of us working to improve the political process feel like dupes, unable to help. These are real problems our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens are facing. We should have been able to provide voters with more than just a campaign’s taglines or talking points.

When I met “Janeane from Des Moines,” I didn’t know it was a fake scenario. I was truly upset at this woman’s obvious distress in not being able to get the answers she so desperately needed. Even after realizing it was a set-up, I was still sympathetic to the issues the actress and the film bring up. Voters in this election cycle — like so many others before it — have real problems they want solved, and it is in the hands of our elected officials to help them.

That said, I have to admit the movie, and my unsuspecting role in it, did bother me. My real beef with Janeane’s (or should I say Jane Edith’s) stunt is this: In Iowa, we depended on the interaction with the candidates to be relevant as an early test ground. It was our opportunity to listen to what they have to say and measure their characters. We took this role very seriously, and so did the candidates. If future candidates come to think Iowa voters are part of some stunt for a movie, or conspiracy to trap them in situations that make them look bad — not real people with real problems — they may choose to stop taking questions and possibly even feel like they can’t be honest with us.

To let this happen would completely undercut the entire premise of Iowa and our status of first in the nation. The lesson learned from this situation is this: It is the voters’ job to be just as honest and as forthcoming as we expect our political candidates and elected officials to be. In return, candidates and elected officials need to continue to do a better job of relating to voters’ problems and give them more than just a campaign-approved sound bite in response.

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Filed under Media Bias, Public Affaris, Reputation Management

The ‘Unforgiven’ Eastwood Electrifies Americans, Offends Media

A while back, I wrote a post about Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” advertisement, which ran during the Super Bowl. I thought it was brilliant, catching the exact sentiment of America.

Last night, I watched the same icon in his appearance at the Republican National Convention. It was unscripted. He did not use the TelePrompTer as every other speaker did.

He was allotted five minutes, yet took a full twelve to conduct a faux interview with President Obama. The President was represented by an empty chair, which seemed to electrify the audience in Tampa.

Unfortunately, he also electrified a vitriolic media corps. Today his appearance is being attacked by some in the media (who often show a clear bias in favor of President Obama and more liberal causes).

It doesn’t surprise me that he’s being attacked by these outlets. His offense, in their eyes, is that he appeared at the Republican National Convention at all. Had he made the same appearance at the Democrat’s convention next week, and done the same “interview” of an absent Governor Romney, he would have been hailed as a bold genius.

But the wisdom of Clint Eastwood is this: In his “Halftime in America” advertisement he captured the essence of America, one of hopeful pride, deep strength and resilience. Last night, he did the same in an unscripted, unedited moment. He noted that the fact 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed is a national disgrace, one that makes him cry. And that none of us, not even the President, has done enough to help our fellow Americans.

One specific passage in his remarks will resonate deeply with the millions of Americans who watched him last night (allow me to paraphrase):

As Americans, we own this country. It belongs to each and every one of us.

Politicians, and those we elect, are our employees. Not the other way around.

When they don’t do a good job, or don’t do their job at all, we need to let them go and hire a replacement.

Those in elected office (regardless of party) and those in the biased media know the simple power of those truisms. That sentiment is exactly what America feels right now.

In “The Unforgiven,” a retired gunslinger named William Munny comes out of retirement for one last job. Last night, Clint Eastwood did one last job. The biased media knows he was effective, and that’s why today they’re trying to undercut him with such harsh criticism. I’m sure it couldn’t matter less to Clint Eastwood. And it couldn’t matter less to the tens of millions of people whose thoughts he succinctly put into words.

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Filed under Media Bias