OpEdNews Op Eds

Will Ferrell & ACT's Failed Logic

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 3 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It


Become a Fan
  (53 fans)
- Advertisement -
Two experiences midway through Campaign 2004 one involving comedian Will Ferrell and the other billionaire George Soros convinced me that the Democrats are doomed until they grasp how the Republicans have used media to change the rules of America 's political game.

Both moments related to the liberal political group, America Coming Together, which had spearheaded the notion that a massive voter-registration drive, combined with some targeted political ads, would pave the way for a Democratic victory. After spending almost $200 million and failing to win, ACT is now facing collapse.

While ACT can be viewed as just one more casualty of John Kerry 's loss to George W. Bush, the group 's troubles also point to a deeper problem on the American Left, the reliance on "grassroots organizing " as a political cure-all while refusing to commit the resources to build a media infrastructure that can rival what the Right has created.

My Will Ferrell experience started in spring 2004 when I was shown a rough cut of the comedian reprising his "Saturday Night Live " imitation of a goofy but belligerent George W. Bush. It struck me that the skit had the makings of a devastating political commercial.

Ferrell portrayed Bush doing a manipulative campaign ad, as a crisply dressed rancher who feared horses and who used farm tools as clumsy props. Amid the stops and starts of filming the "ad, " Ferrell 's Bush would play video games, ramble on about "peace through bombs, " and snap at the off-screen director.

At one point, an exasperated "Bush " threatened the director to a fight: "What do you mean 'cut '? Well, you can do it yourself, jackass. I 'm going to fight you. Are we going to throw down right now? "

The Ferrell video was the creation of Los Angeles-based Balcony Films, which was doing work for America Coming Together (ACT). After watching the long-form version of Ferrell 's performance, I turned to the executive producer (and friend), Julie Bergman Sender, and told her that if the video were widely broadcast on American television, I couldn 't envision Bush winning.

In summer 2004, as Ferrell 's hit movie "Anchorman " was appearing in theaters, a version of the Ferrell "Bush " video was posted on the Internet and mentioned on some TV talk shows. But it was never cut into 30-second versions and was never made part of the ad buys by ACT 's sister group, the Media Fund.
- Advertisement -

Death by Consultants

A chief reason for this failure to make wider use of Ferrell 's "Bush " appeared to be that ACT and the Media Fund were dominated by traditional Democratic operatives, such as former Clinton aide Harold Ickes, Emily 's List founder Ellen Malcolm and Service Employees International Union President Andrew L. Stern.

These operatives, in turn, relied on armies of consultants to vet the political commercials. The ones that survived this committee process and then were aired mostly in battleground states were widely criticized as safe and unimaginative.

In effect, ACT and the Media Fund were accepting the parameters of political respectability that had been shaped by the powerful conservative news media over the previous four years.

Any poking fun at Bush was deemed unpatriotic or a "hate-fest, " while ridicule of Kerry for wind-surfing or "looking French " or supposedly lying about his Vietnam War record was considered standard fare for political talk shows.
- Advertisement -

Soros 's Money

This failure to comprehend how the Right 's media machine had transformed American politics also was reflected in the other campaign moment that alerted me to the impending disaster for the Democrats in 2004.

That came in mid-campaign when investor George Soros said he didn 't need to spend more beyond the $30 million or so he had already invested because Bush 's defeat was a foregone conclusion.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3



Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags
Google Content Matches:
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The CIA/Likud Sinking of Jimmy Carter

What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?

Ron Paul's Appalling World View

Ronald Reagan: Worst President Ever?

The Disappearance of Keith Olbermann

A Perjurer on the US Supreme Court


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

"Fascism is the marriage of corporation power and ... by gramps on Sunday, Aug 7, 2005 at 6:39:06 AM
I wholeheartedly cheer your response but must add ... by ardee D. on Monday, Aug 8, 2005 at 6:28:42 PM