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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 20, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy Easter, everyone! When I say the word "Easter," it immediately prompts images, doesn’t it? Images of colored eggs, a crucifixion, a bunny, a stone rolled from a tomb entrance - images both religious and secular. Most concepts prompt images, too, including politics. And the use of imagery in politics is often no accident. It’s proven to be a powerful tool. This week’s discussion is prompted by the announcement of Chelsea Clinton’s pregnancy just days ago:

“Ma & Pa Clinton” - The family portrait is important in the world of politics. I know some of you will scream, “That’s not fair!" but it’s the reality. The Kennedy family with all their photos probably wrote the book on this. Let’s face it. The Clinton family has often appeared fractured. To many people, it seems that Bill and Hillary have had more of a business partnership than a marriage. Yes, Hillary and Chelsea stood by his side in good times and bad, but it was strained. Now the arrival of a grandchild in nine months – as the New Hampshire and Iowa campaigns begin – could not be better timing (and I’m not saying it was intentional). In politics – as in comedy – timing is everything!

“Spanning Generations” – It’s common political rhetoric to talk about what your decisions now will mean to the next generations – your children and grandchildren – and this helps humanize the Clinton family portrait. What Hillary might do as President could have an impact on her own grandchild and on all of ours. All of a sudden her policies aren’t just abstract; they are reality for her own family. She’s a stakeholder. Why do you think we saw so many pictures and videos of Mitt and Ann Romney with their children and grandchildren? The multi-generational family is a very powerful image. People can relate to it.

“The Image Master” – Ronald Reagan is still probably the master of this in my lifetime. His handlers were very deliberate in planting all those flags behind him to the point that the phrase, “wrapping himself in the American flag,” was born. Reagan, the “rugged, tough” movie star, morphed into Reagan, the “rugged, tough” political leader. The pictures of him in blue jeans, riding his horse and chopping wood at his Santa Barbara ranch, were no accident. And Reagan's taking a bullet and living through an assassination attempt made him politically "bulletproof” for the rest of his presidency. He was double tough - invincible in image, if not in real life.

“The Unfairness” – Okay, what do you do if you are Condoleezza Rice? Regardless of your politics, she is a brilliant, well-educated, well-qualified woman who has been in the political trenches for two decades. She also reached the pinnacle of academia – Provost at Stanford. But she has never been married and has no children. So what’s the family portrait? Rice and her pet dog? Yes, it’s horribly unfair and unequal. We’ve elected one “single” President – James Buchanan – in our history, and his sister served as First Lady. It was an anomaly. For Rice it would be a hard-sell campaign, standing there on her own. Fair? No. Reality? Probably yes. But, we’re in a generation of changing images, so maybe…

“The Smiley Candidate” – He’s not exactly a household name in Providence, or beyond; but the name "Brett Smiley" might just be making headlines in political circles this year. He’s running for Mayor of Providence; and, at his campaign kick-off, he introduced his husband, Jim DeRentis, with the same ease that a Barack Obama introduces Michelle, or a George W. Bush introduced Laura, or - for that matter, the ease with which Margaret Thatcher introduced Dennis. Yes, it may offend certain demographics, but it is political reality. We’re going to see more candidates introducing same-sex spouses; and many voters will greet such announcements with a shrug of their shoulders. People want results; people want good government, no matter who provides it.

“The Double-Edged Sword” – Image-making is a roll of the dice. Sometimes the results are great; sometimes they are a disaster. There are no guarantees. When Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis donned a helmet and drove a tank in 1988, he, in the estimation of many, looked like “Snoopy!” It was ironic, because Dukakis had served in the U.S. Army. Still, the photo looked phony and staged; and it backfired, when compared to George H.W. Bush who was a legitimate World War II hero.

“She’s a Killer Queen!” – Perhaps no one in modern political times has reshaped her political image better than Queen Elizabeth II. The stoic, unfeeling ex-mother-in-law in the days after Princess Diana’s horrible death has been transformed into the beloved Grandma of Diana’s children, William and Harry, and now the Great Grandma of Prince George. People across the world will weep at her death when it comes. The once-despised Queen is much loved today. Images can do full 180-degree reversals. This is why politics is often called “the art of the possible!”

“What it All Means?” – As mentioned, political imagery can be a kingmaker, or a campaign killer. It’s an art; but not a precise science. The image of Hillary Clinton as a grandmother (and mom) is probably a lot more powerful and enduring than Hillary Clinton as a spouse. Expect to see a lot of Grandma and baby pictures – some with Bill and Chelsea and Chesea's husband Marc, and some without.

“The Future” – In some respects, forget about Hillary Clinton. Her political rise or fall in 2016 may be entirely her own doing. But is Chelsea Clinton a future candidate? Or is her husband Marc Mezvinsky a potential candidate, too? (Both of his parents served in Congress). The images of them and their baby may be compelling, with political implications into the next generation.

What are your thoughts? Please click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com. Happy Easter to all!

© 2014, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo courtesy: The Daily Mail of UK

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 13, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – The bizarre shoe-throwing attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought to mind a whole slew of weird attacks on our political figures over the years – some rather lame, others quite serious. Since it is “Sunday the 13th,” I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of the strange and scary assaults on our political leaders over the years:

“Shoe Fly; Don’t Bother Me” – Hillary Clinton was speaking to a waste management convention, of all things, in Las Vegas last week, when a shoe went flying past her head as she began her remarks (photo above). The woman arrested for tossing the shoe – for reasons still not known – is 36-year-old Alison Michelle Ernst. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because she is the same woman who showed up in a red dress and bald-headed to disrupt a court appearance by accused Aurora, Colorado, theater killer James Holmes in 2012. (Good lord, where is the Secret Service intelligence on her?) In any case, at least the former First Lady had a sense of humor. “Is that part of the Cirque du Soleil?” she asked, as the crowd laughed.

“If the Shoe Fits” – Secretary Clinton is in good company. In 2008, President George W. Bush had two shoes flung at him during a news conference in Iraq, a severe insult in Arab culture (photo above). The thrower was Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who shouted, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." The TV journalist served a nine-month prison sentence for assaulting a foreign head of state and was released in September, 2009.

“To the Moon!” – On October 25, 1989, famed Astronaut-turned-Senator John Glenn was being interviewed on Capitol Hill by my good friend, TV reporter Gary Nurenberg. Suddenly, a well- dressed man walked up and punched Senator Glenn in the face for no apparent reason. Police arrested 31-year-old Michael John Breen of Washington. He apparently punched the Senator for failing to warn the public about earthquakes. Breen did some jail time, but is back on the street.

“Burr Under the Saddle” – Sometimes, it’s the politicians attacking each other. One of the great feuds in American political history involved Vice President Aaron Burr and his rival, former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The fierce rivalry ended in a duel in 1804. No shoes were thrown, but gun shots were fired. Hamilton missed his mark, but Burr fatally shot Hamilton in the abdomen. Burr was charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped. As fate would have it, Burr later died in obscurity, while Hamilton is immortalized to this very day as the face of the $10 bill!

“The Rough Rider” – Only in my hometown of Milwaukee could such a bizarre political attack take place. Former President Teddy Roosevelt was running to regain his old job in October, 1912, when he was shot by a disgruntled saloon keeper named John Schrank. The bullet passed through Roosevelt’s eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of his campaign speech that was inside his suit jacket pocket. The bullet was slowed by the two items, but still managed to penetrate Roosevelt’s chest, but not his heart or lungs. Even though he was bleeding from the chest, he delivered his 90-minute speech before heading to the hospital. Roosevelt lived another nine years with the bullet still lodged in his chest. The eyeglass case and copy of the speech saved his life!

“The Squeaky Wheel Gets Life” – On September 5, 1975, former Charles Manson Family member Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford at the Statehouse in Sacramento, California. Fromme tried to shoot Ford at point blank range, but her gun did not discharge. (Again, doesn’t the Secret Service keep tabs on these people?) In any case, Fromme was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled after 34 years, following the death of former President Ford.

“There Goes the Neighborhood” – In 1999, I bought a home in the Sycamore subdivision in Danville, California. Some time later I learned that a notorious woman named Sara Jane Moore had lived just up the street from my house. In September, 1975, Moore fired a shot at President Ford in San Francisco, narrowly missing him (this just 17 days after Squeaky Fromme tried to kill Ford). Moore was sentenced to life in prison, but was released after 32 years in 2007, after Ford’s death.

“The Life of Pie” – One of the most bizarre political groups I ever had to cover was the Biotic Baking Brigade in San Francisco. The group was famous for tossing cream pies in the faces of noted business leaders such as Bill Gates, and politicians such as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. No one ever got hurt. The photos and video were always a hoot, but it seems the group has since disbanded.

“Vote Them Out” – So what’s the lesson from all of this? We’ve covered the gamut from seemingly harmless shoe assaults to outright assassination attempts. We have the longest lasting democracy in world history, and one of the main reasons is the peaceful way we transition power from one party to another. The point is, if you don’t like a particular figure or movement, then vote them out. There’s no need to shoot them, let alone throw shoes! And besides, no one ever went to jail by using the ballot box to fire a politician.

Let me know your thoughts. Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: ABCnews.com

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