Radio: The Political Pulpit


Campaign managers rarely miss a trick when it comes to saturating the media with their messages, particularly during a Presidential campaign. It is always interesting when the candidates themselves start sparring away with the expected formula of fact, spin, and quotes out of context.

These same campaign managers would probably be some of the first to agree that the populist reach of broadcast radio is a potent force. Case in point: the airwaves sizzled last Friday as Sen. Obama delivered the weekly Democratic Radio Address and Sen. McCain delivered his own weekly address over the air.

Foon Rhee, Deputy National Political Editor of The Boston Globe brings us some of the pertinent quotes from each program.

From the Obama Address:

“First, we learned that the federal budget deficit could reach nearly half a trillion dollars next year. Eight years after we had a record surplus, we’re now faced with record deficits. This mortgaging of our children’s future is a direct result of the Bush Administration’s dangerously failed fiscal policies,” Obama says, asserting that McCain would continue Bush’s unfair tax policies by extending tax cuts for the wealthy.

“The second thing we learned this week was that the Iraqi government now has a $79 billion budget surplus thanks to their windfall oil profits,” Obama continues. “And while this Iraqi money sits in American banks, American taxpayers continue to spend $10 billion a month to defend and rebuild Iraq.

“That’s right. America faces a huge budget deficit. Iraq has a surplus. Now, Senator McCain promises to continue President Bush’s open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq, while refusing to pressure Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country.”

Stinging words, but his is not the only camp they are coming from as shown by this quote from Sen. McCain’s weekly radio address shows, again from Mr. Rhee’s article in The Boston Globe:

“As you may know, the Democratic National Convention is just a couple of weeks away. It was four years ago, at the same gathering, that America heard a fine speech from an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. He’s done pretty well for himself since then. And the smart money in Denver is on another celebrated performance,” McCain says. “But even the most stirring speeches are easily forgotten when they’re short on content. Taking in my opponent’s performances is a little like watching a big summer blockbuster, and an hour in realizing that all the best scenes were in the trailer you saw last fall. In the way of running mates, Senator Obama should consider someone with a knack for brevity and directness, to balance the ticket.”

“In the meantime, let me take a stab at a plot summary of the Obama campaign: America is finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit. Government is too big, and he wants to grow it. Taxes are too high, and he wants to raise them. Congress spends too much, and he proposes more. We need more energy, and he’s against producing it.”

By virtue of its ubiquity, radio is an incredibly important medium in the race for the Oval Office. It reaches people who do not have access to the Internet. It reaches millions of commuters stuck in traffic across the nation. It extends to construction job sites and taxi cabs everywhere. In short, it reaches voters of all socioeconomic strata and all ethnic/cultural demographics.

I am sure that over the next few months we will see a deluge of both fact and ad hominem arguments radiating from radio speakers everywhere. This election season should see that reach greatly extended due to the advent of additional HD Radio channels for content and a whole new generation of cell phones adapted for radio reception.

Just think, this is all without factoring in the far right and far left talk radio programming that flourishes on the dial. Air America and Rush Limbaugh will have a field day.

Photo courtesy of faeryboots, used under its Creative Commons license


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