Fawning Over Fred

The news media is salivating over the worst kept secret in politics — Fred Thompson’s entrance into the presidential race. TV star! Tall! Reaganesque!

Whether it’s because reporters are smitten or because they are bored and want fresh meat, Senator Thompson is getting a bigger media bounce than other candidates experienced when they announced.

Perhaps the only people happier than the press corps are the Democratic candidates. According to composite results from leading pollsters, all front-running Democrats are running well ahead His Fredness. Clinton leads him by 6.5%, Edwards by 12.3%, and Obama by 13.5%. The Democratic candidates have a bigger leads over the new kid on the block than most other leading GOP contenders.

Based on these numbers, is it too early rule out Thompson as a viable candidate? Of course it is; half the country doesn’t know who he is. But it’s also way too early for bored campaign beat reporters to coronate him.

– Loveland

I Know Consensus When I See It

So, let’s recap.The experiments, although conducted by researchers of professional standing, are not regarded as conclusive. Eminent research scientists have publicly questioned the claimed significance of these experiments.

Distinguished authorities point out:

1. Research in recent years indicates many possible causes.

2. There’s no agreement among the authorities regarding the cause.

3. There’s no proof about a specific cause.

4. The statistics could apply with equal force to many other aspects of life. In fact, the validity of the statistics themselves is questioned by numerous scientists.

Global warming? Nope.

These are the essential messages from an ad that ran in 448 American newspapers on January 4, 1954. It was taken out by the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, which had been formed a bit earlier by increasingly skittish American tobacco companies that were unnerved by studies starting to link you-know-what with you-know-what. In the textbook example of staying “on message,” this positioning found fertile ground for about 40 years.

While the centrality of the “consensus/no consensus” argument is similar to today’s global warming debate (and while I think that’s interesting) my purpose here is not to equate the two. OK, maybe a little. Mostly I’m using it as a springboard to recommend Allan M. Brandt’s The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America (Basic Books, 2007), from which I’ve paraphrased the above and from which I’m learning a lot at the moment.

For anyone interested in communication, persuasion, marketing, history, advertising and PR  and the like, it’s a terrific, substantive and even-handed read.

— Hornseth

He’s Alive…Oh, My God…He’s Alive!

My buddy Loveland opined a few days ago that Senator Larry Craig had done about as poor a job handling a crisis as could be imagined. Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t tease reality by saying it has reached the limit of our imaginations; it has a way of exceeding our expectations in this area.

As in the case of Senator Craig. Just when the story had finally begun to die, along comes a twist that truly boggles my mind; here’s the description from the New York Times:

“Dan Whiting, a spokesman for Mr. Craig, an Idaho Republican, said Tuesday night that Mr. Craig had not ruled out reversing his plan to step down Sept. 30. After intense pressure from Republican colleagues in the Senate, Mr. Craig announced Saturday that it would be best for ‘the people of Idaho’ if he resigned after the disclosure of his guilty plea last month to disorderly conduct charges stemming from his arrest in June in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom.

“’As he stated on Saturday, Senator Craig intends to resign on Sept. 30,’ Mr. Whiting said in a statement. ‘However, he is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may, and I emphasize may, not resign.’”

A-freaking-mazing. And, given that this was a statement, not an off-the-cuff comment, you have to figure this was a deliberate overture, not an aide off message. You can only imagine what’s going on in his inner circle of advisors (which includes, I note, the lawyer who did so well for Michael Vick in his little trip through the media spotlight).

I’m trying also to imagine what the GOP operatives are saying to their candidates and among themselves at those back-of-the-hotel-bar tables that operatives congregate at when the campaign stops for the evening somewhere.

But that would just be teasing reality all over again and I’m not going there; it’s too weird already.