Monday, September 28, 2009

President’s health care video contest has the potential to ask for trouble

How many of you remember the Chicago Sun-Times’ attempt a couple of years ago to have some fun at the expense of Sam Zell and the Chicago Tribune by organizing a contest asking people to put together videos explaining why Zell should never consider changing the name of Wrigley Field?

The Tribune managed to undermine that contest by having one of the newspaper’s interns enter, and she won. The Sun-Times’ attempt to poke fun at the competition would up making them look a little foolish.

I HAVE TO admit that remembering this stunt from early ’08 was my initial reaction to learning in an e-mail sent to me recently that the political followers of President Barack Obama are seriously resorting to a contest – asking people to put together amateur videos in the form of a commercial.

The message to be delivered?

Explaining why we, the people of this great nation, need a reform of the way in which health care is paid for in this country.

Why do I suspect that some social conservative outfit that wants to deride anything that comes from Obama as being “socialist” is already putting together some parody of what they consider to be the president’s “message.”

THEY’RE PROBABLY FINDING some youthful conservative to be the equivalent of Katie Hamilton (the Tribune intern who posed as a Cubs’ fan in the contest-winning video).

Then, if they manage to win, they will make their own announcement in an attempt to show just how “stupid” the Obama-types are in trying to use such a tactic to tout health care reform.

We’ll get to see their message as a parody that takes hidden shots at the concept. And worse, the Obama people are saying they will use the winning video on national television.

So the social conservatives may very well get airtime for THEIR message, paid for by the president’s followers.

ADMITTEDLY, BACK IN early 2008, Barack Obama was already pretty intense on the campaign trail. So perhaps he should not be expected to remember that particular Sun-Times contest gaffe.

But with all the Chicago-types who have gone to Washington to run the federal government in our city’s image for the next few years, you’d think there’d be at least one person who would remember this 21st Century example of one of the oldest games in the newspaper racket – rival papers trying to dump on each other.

And when applied to the national debate taking place these days over what form, if al all, health care reform should take, it is perfect.

For the health care reform proponents “win” if nothing happens at all.

SABOTAGING AN OBAMA video contest would fit well within their tactics.

Now as ought to be clear from my past commentaries published here, I am generally a supporter of the president. I also am a firm believer that some change needs to be made with regards to health care.

This is not an issue where doing nothing is acceptable. Of course, it wasn’t an issue where doing nothing was acceptable back in 1993 when then-President Bill Clinton put first lady Hillary R. on the job, only to see her fail to accomplish any change.

As far as I’m concerned, that means we have gone the past 16 years with a serious problem in our nation’s midst. That is something we ought to be ashamed of, but I am realistic enough to know that there are probably some people who worked against the Clintons’ health care reforms who consider the fact that nothing happened to be the highlight of their political career.

WHAT A HIGHLIGHT – they did nothing!

I don’t want to see nothing happen again. And I definitely don’t want to see any stupid gaffes that detract attention from seriously-needed reforms in the way health care if paid for – a problem so severe that roughly 47 million people in this country have no way of paying for medical treatment when it is needed.

So I’d like to have delusions that somehow, someone with ties to the president’s people will read this and be reminded of the need to be extra wary of the entries in this contest they are promoting.

Let’s be honest. This contest is less about coming up with serious public policy talking points and is more about reinforcing the image that this president is of the 21st Century and fully appreciates the ways in which the Internet can make personal messages about policy more easily accessible to the public.

I’M SURE THE person who puts together the winning video will consider it one of the most significant accomplishments of their lifetime.

Let’s just hope it becomes a significant accomplishment because it helps sway the health care reform debate, and not because it made the president and his people look like vacuous nitwits.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Can you deliver a serious message in 30 seconds? If so, Barack Obama’s allies ( would like to see your video vision by Oct. 18.

1 comment:

McDaidUSA said...

It seems that the bottom line of this article is that people shouldn't attempt to use videos for political statements since it has the potential to backfire. But don't all forms of free speech have the potential to backfire? And shouldn't we really be encouraging the people whose health care is in need of reform be engaged somehow in the debate? How better to engage them than to encourage them to be creative and let their voices heard? By the way, I am a contributor to the "Organizing for America" video challenge and I think its a great idea.