Tag Archives: Rhode Island

Dumbest political attack ad I’ve seen

…For this fall set of New England elections, anyway. It’s paid for by the campaign of Elizabeth Roberts, who for some damned reason is eager to be Lieutenant Governor of…well, does the actual state matter? Emperor Norton wielded more authority than any sitting Lieutenant Governor.

The point of this ad seems to be “My opponent has a real scary beard. You know who else has a real scary beard? Do I actually have to say it? Really?”

It’s funny enough that the damnable accusation she makes is that “Robert Healey, if elected, has no plans to kill the sitting Governor and then enact his own plan to singlehandedly create jobs for the State of Rhode Island.”

But the best bit is the reason why he plans to do nothing if elected: he’s running on a platform of “The office of Lieutenant Governor does absolutely nothing for the people of the state and should be reduced to little more than a standby title, saving taxpayers a million dollars a year.” He promises, if elected, to accept no salary and hire no staff.

From a recent Providence Journal piece about Healey:

That Quest Research poll showed incumbent Roberts at 48 percent to Healey’s 43 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

“She thought she was going to have a cakewalk, and now she has a race,” Healey said of Roberts during a recent interview.

Over breakfast of French fries and coffee at Rod’s Grill in his hometown of Warren, Healey groused that the lieutenant governor’s office “is all pet projects that you make up yourself. People use it to push their [way to] higher elective office.”

During a recent Channel 10 political roundtable with Roberts and Venturini, Healey discounted Roberts’accomplishments and said, “It’s all talk, talk, talk. The office has no power.”

If elected, Healey said he will work for free, fire the staff, suspend his legal practice and resign as president of his Zultan Corporation. He said he’s ready to serve as governor if required.

I have instantly gone from having no idea who Elizabeth Roberts and Robert Healey are to predicting that the former will be selling real estate in ten years’ time and that in a hundred years the latter will be on a commemorative postage stamp.

I’m not one of these “the best government is no government” types but Healey plugs into an instinctive logic that appeals to voters: for God’s sake, don’t elect people who are at all eager to be in a position of power. It’s OK if they see power as a necessary tool for getting things done and improving the lives of your fellow citizens. But anybody willing to go this far to become — again, the phrase “Oh, for God’s sake” comes to mind — a lieutenant governor should probably be kept away from the liquor cabinet.

Plus: though I do personally think that a city mayor, a governor, and the President should be active, hands-on officials (I understand if they want to take an occasional afternoon off for their kids’ soccer games but otherwise, I expect them in the office at least five days a week), I think it’s up to Roberts to explain why the Lieutenant Governor’s office is important. Why should she need more than a $100 month state-paid cellphone contract? Here’s your special phone: if the Governor pops his clogs or suddenly realizes how much more money he could be making on the corporate lecture circuit, we’ll call you. We’ll even throw in a car charger.

Actually, let’s kite the Lieutenant Governor’s budget up to $500 a month. It’ll cover gas money. She should drive up to the state capital once a week and take a regular meeting on how things are going. And maybe refresh herself on how the Governor’s Office phone system works. If the head of the state government is killed in a North Korean missile attack, we don’t want the new acting Governor to waste time asking people if she needs to dial “9” first before calling FEMA and the Army guys.

My reaction to this political ad kind of underscores my lifelong relationship with commercials. The best an advertiser can ever hope to accomplish is to communicate to me that their product or service exists. The only way an ad has ever actually influenced my decisions in any way has been to convince me to stay as far as way from the thing as humanly possible.

I mean, for all I know, Roberts is a fine public servant. But jeez, a campaign slogan of “my opponent has a scary beard” won’t win the hearts and minds of sensible men and women.