Commentary Magazine


Topic: Big Bird

Obama “Big Bird” Strategy Officially a Joke

Hopefully the “Daily Show” wasn’t one of those “comedy shows” that Team Obama planned to air its “satirical” Big Bird advertisement on, because Jon Stewart tore the ad to shreds last night. Noting that “the most damning line in that ad” was “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message,” Stewart practically pleaded with the campaign to “let it go”:

It’s not just Stewart; in a Reuters report, Democrats said they’re stumped by the small-ball strategy as well. Some wonder whether there’s some hidden strategy here, aimed at cutting into Romney’s gains with women voters, or if it’s simply an effort to rally the base:

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Hopefully the “Daily Show” wasn’t one of those “comedy shows” that Team Obama planned to air its “satirical” Big Bird advertisement on, because Jon Stewart tore the ad to shreds last night. Noting that “the most damning line in that ad” was “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message,” Stewart practically pleaded with the campaign to “let it go”:

It’s not just Stewart; in a Reuters report, Democrats said they’re stumped by the small-ball strategy as well. Some wonder whether there’s some hidden strategy here, aimed at cutting into Romney’s gains with women voters, or if it’s simply an effort to rally the base:

The more conspiratorial campaign watchers reckon maybe the president’s team must know something Washington does not.

Perhaps, promising to save Big Bird is a winner among moms. A Pew Research Center survey released this week observed an 18-point swing in Romney’s favor among likely women voters over the course of the last month.

Maybe the Obama folks think the only way to bandage the hurt caused by Obama’s weak debate performance is with laughter.

The winking ad with its knowing use of irony could be a play for young voters, a nudge that says Obama is still the hip politician they knocked on doors for in 2008.

Based on the reaction from Stewart and others, this ad isn’t going to convince younger voters that Obama is “still hip.” But could it be a play for the women’s vote? The Obama campaign would have to be making some pretty broad (and patronizing) assumptions about women if it thinks many will be persuaded by a Sesame Street character. Then again, both Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, the two women Obama supposedly relies on the most for advice in his life, are zealous Sesame Street fans.

To be honest, I doubt there was any strategy here, beyond a panicked campaign looking for any story to grab onto that wasn’t Obama’s debate performance or Libya. They partially succeeded at that goal, but also made their candidate look like a joke in the process. Now they can’t admit they miscalculated, so they’re insisting this was really just a savvy play for the women’s vote that went over the heads of Washington pundits. Watch them drop the Big Bird line as soon as Paul Ryan and Joe Biden step off the stage tonight.

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Gibbs: Big Bird Ad Makes “Important Point”

It looks like the Obama campaign is forging ahead with its ill-conceived Big Bird ad campaign, despite ridicule from across the political spectrum. On the Today show this morning, Robert Gibbs defended the ad against allegations that it makes the president seem trivial and desperate:

“The ad and the President have an important point on this,” said Gibbs on NBC’s “Today” show. “Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate said, ‘I’m going to get tough by getting “Downton Abbey” and going to war with “Sesame Street” ‘ when he’s going to let Wall Street off the hook and not hold them accountable as we go on financial reform.

“We can’t have a president that does that. That’s certainly part of a very real issue and I think it’s one more piece of something … that Mitt Romney said in the debate that he would like to change or that is a position that he is going to want to change,” Gibbs continued, accusing Romney of changing his stance on numerous issues.

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It looks like the Obama campaign is forging ahead with its ill-conceived Big Bird ad campaign, despite ridicule from across the political spectrum. On the Today show this morning, Robert Gibbs defended the ad against allegations that it makes the president seem trivial and desperate:

“The ad and the President have an important point on this,” said Gibbs on NBC’s “Today” show. “Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate said, ‘I’m going to get tough by getting “Downton Abbey” and going to war with “Sesame Street” ‘ when he’s going to let Wall Street off the hook and not hold them accountable as we go on financial reform.

“We can’t have a president that does that. That’s certainly part of a very real issue and I think it’s one more piece of something … that Mitt Romney said in the debate that he would like to change or that is a position that he is going to want to change,” Gibbs continued, accusing Romney of changing his stance on numerous issues.

The “war with Sesame Street” line is a nice touch. Gibbs is pandering to the lowest of the low-interest voters, hoping they make their choice based on whether they’re Downton Abbey or Sesame Street fans. This is the same fearmongering the Obama campaign has used to criticize every potential government cut, but it’s never been more obvious than now. According to the campaign, the mammoth entitlements can’t be tinkered with because too many people rely on them. But talk about cutting the small stuff — like public funding for PBS — and the Obama campaign will mock you for wanting to get rid of a program that will barely make a dent in the deficit. The end result is a president who looks completely unserious when it comes to dealing with the debt crisis. He won’t cut the big things, and he won’t cut the small things.

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Mitt Romney Won’t Kill Big Bird

It’s the line from the election that liberals are clinging to–it’s the only one they can. Romney will kill Big Bird and destroy public television, robbing our children of the joy of Sesame Street. The world will become a sad, dejected place without Big Bird and his posse if Mitt Romney is elected president of the United States. Who could possibly want that? Obama is already hitting the stump with this message, and liberals have picked up the fight for Big Bird.

The actual Romney quote from the debate reads as follows:

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.

Does this mean Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird? Will Big Bird and his friends disappear off the airwaves? No, on both counts.

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It’s the line from the election that liberals are clinging to–it’s the only one they can. Romney will kill Big Bird and destroy public television, robbing our children of the joy of Sesame Street. The world will become a sad, dejected place without Big Bird and his posse if Mitt Romney is elected president of the United States. Who could possibly want that? Obama is already hitting the stump with this message, and liberals have picked up the fight for Big Bird.

The actual Romney quote from the debate reads as follows:

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.

Does this mean Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird? Will Big Bird and his friends disappear off the airwaves? No, on both counts.

What many in liberal circles may be calling a gaffe today is a widely and long-held objective in conservative circles: the desire to defund public television and push its privatization. Sesame Street is incredibly well-known to anyone that has had children or who has been a child themselves in the last forty years, i.e., most Americans. The popularity of the merchandise and video/DVD sales have made the franchise familiar and incredibly profitable for PBS, which receives 15 percent of its funding from taxpayers. While many liberals are quick to point out that the budget for PBS is infinitesimal in comparison to the rest of the national budget, it seems these same liberals are unaccustomed to austerity measures of any kind, whether they be governmental, personal or in a business.

If a family of four has $500,000 of credit card debt and only an income of $30,000 per year, opting not to get a soup or salad appetizer with dinner at Applebees one night won’t dig them out of their debt. However, these decisions, small and seemingly meaningless on their face, add up with every dinner, with every spending decision until, eventually, the debt doesn’t seem quite so terrifying. Romney’s desire to eliminate spending on public television is just a soup appetizer at Applebees; there would be much more austerity needed to come to overcome our $16 trillion national debt.

In the case of PBS and NPR, the decision isn’t one between haves and have-nots. We can, in this instance, have our cake and eat it too. The beloved programming that exists on PBS, like Sesame Street, would not cease airing. Popular shows have a way of staying on air, just as popular food products have a way of staying on store shelves and popular movies have a way of staying in theaters. The free market determines the viability of shows like Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. Both have stayed on air because they are beloved, educational shows for children and young adults, and many parents have also admitted to me how much they enjoy the shows themselves. Dora has survived without my tax dollars, and Big Bird would too. The success of Sesame Street has kept PBS viable for decades, keeping stations afloat while politically liberal shows have become a burden on stations.

Liberals aren’t worried about Sesame Street going off the air, they’re worried about liberal roundtables and documentaries feeling the wrath of the free market. This fight for public television isn’t about Big Bird, it’s about Bill Moyers.

Eventually, our children will be paying for the time they’ve spent watching Sesame Street, whether it be in time wasted watching commercials or in debt to China to pay Sesame Street’s producer’s salaries. Given that choice, how could we possibly chose to make our children beholden to Chinese lenders just to avoid a few diaper and sugary cereal commercials?

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