According to The Fix, George Allen’s campaign announcement video was produced by Scott Howell, and his campaign’s media consultant will be Scott Howell & Co. Don’t remember Scott Howell? Here’s a brief refresher.
First, here’s Waldo Jaquith on Scott Howell’s infamous “Hitler” ad for Republican gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore in 2005.
It’s actually a series of three ads. Each of them exploit somebody’s death for political gain. At least two of them depend on the viewer’s lack of knowledge of the legal process and fail to presents some basic facts of the topic at hand, as Martin Johnson points out on SouthNow.
But none of that matters. The average voter watching an ad in which Lt. Governor Tim Kaine is all but accused of murder, complete with harshly-lit black and white stills with photos of the deceased loved ones, their mind is made up. Kaine might be right, and Kilgore might be a sick son of a bitch for running these ads, but, with these ads, Kilgore wins and Kaine loses.
Of course, as we know, the “Hitler” ads backfired and Kaine defeated Kilgore easily. Score one for the good guys against Scott Howell.
Next, here’s Waldo Jaquith again, this time on Scott Howell’s sordid past. That sordidness includes:
*An ad for Saxby Chambliss and against Max Cleland in 2002.
Cleland, as you likely know, is a hero of the Vietnam war – he left three limbs on the battlefield. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. Though Cleland has a great deal to his name, his most well-known attribute is that he has given a lot for his nation, just a medevac away from making the ultimate sacrifice. Between his military and public service, he’s the very model of an American patriot. Scott Howell knew that Chambliss would have a hard time outshining Cleland. Chambliss avoided Vietnam (he “blew out his knee playing football” in law school, while Cleland was fighting for the U.S.), so rather than build Chambliss up, Cleland had to be torn down. Howell put together a tough TV ad featuring photographs of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, with a voiceover accusing Cleland of lacking “courage” in the face of terrorism. The spot worked, and is widely credited with turning the tide against Cleland, assuring Chambliss’ victory.
Lovely, eh? Score one for the bad guys — the really, really bad guys.
*And then there’s the racist, “black hands” ad.
Another well-known Scott Howell ad was the “black hands” piece – as it’s now known – that he created for now-Senator Tom Coburn in his 2004 race against Democratic Rep. Brad Carson. The two were running a tough, close race for the open seat, and, come October, it was anybody’s race. Scott Howell put together an ad attacking Carson. In the commercial, two TVs were displayed – the one on the left showing excerpts from Carson’s TV ads, the one on the right showing juxtaposed images, intended to contrast with Carson’s claims. Halfway through the ad, the narrator accused Carson of not being tough enough on immigrants or Oklahomans on welfare. Right when the word “welfare” was spoken, the television on the right displayed a pair of obviously-black hands, counting through a stack of cash. The message was that Carson, a Democrat, was on the side of poor, black, urban Oklahoma City residents, a demographic seen by some white centrists as an economic drain. Carson cried foul, but that only served to reinforce his opponent’s message, and he lost to Coburn with 47% of the vote.
Chalk up another one for the bad guys — classic “dog whistle politics,” as practiced by Lee Atwater and other, lesser, Republican campaign operatives. Of course, Atwater was the “master” at the “dog whistle,” which Waldo explains as “us[ing] code words and coded concepts, crafted such that the target audience will pick up on them while they’ll be ignored by those who aren’t clued in.” And the “code” in most of these cases is racism or bigotry of some kind, such as the infamous “Willie Horton” ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988, one of the most despicable – but effective – political ads ever aired at the presidential level. That was Lee Atwater, but it might as well have been Scott Howell, because the’s cut from the same exact cloth, just not as successful.
Anyway, that’s George Allen’s media consultants for this campaign. Just thought you’d like to know.