Today, when I turned on my favorite morning cable news show, I saw a new Hillary Clinton campaign attack ad airing twice within 15 minutes. The frequency of the spots was not surprising given that Hillary’s bombardment of the airwaves began weeks ago, and, I was watching from Florida, the mother of all battleground states.
But this new ad raised my political antennae because its message was eerily familiar. The commercial channeled the same voter fears that resulted in one of the greatest Democratic presidential landslides in American history. I immediately recognized that Hillary was “planting daisies.” Let me explain.
“Daisy,” is the name of the most famous TV attack ad in U.S. presidential election history. It is a lasting legacy of the 1964 campaign waged between Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and the Republican nominee, Arizona’s U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. The ad contributed to LBJ’s landslide victory by subtly branding Goldwater as a nuclear warmonger. It was an image Goldwater could not shake.
The black and white 1-minute spot began innocently with an adorable little girl standing in a field counting the petals of a daisy. Her child-like counting dissolves to a serious military-style countdown with real footage of a nuclear explosion. While a horrific mushroom cloud fills the screen, LBJ’s distinctive voice begins saying, “These are the stakes — to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” (LBJ’s apocalyptic statement makes Donald Trump’s speeches sound positively gleeful.)
Interestingly, neither Goldwater’s name nor image was shown or mentioned. Obviously, they were not needed since the ad’s powerful visuals conveyed LBJ’s central message: Goldwater is too dangerous to be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal while our nation is engaged in this perilous Cold War against communism.
Most political science majors are familiar with “Daisy” (original name “Peace, Little Girl”) and know that due to an immediate public outcry, the spot aired only once — on Sept. 7, 1964. Therefore, as a political science major (decades ago) I was amused to see the Clinton campaign’s new twist on old “Daisy” with their commercial aptly named “Unfit.”
As a Republican, it pains me to write that “Unfit” is a brilliant example of political jujitsu — using your opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting him with your own force.
Jujutsu, in action on “Unfit”, presents well-respected anti-Trump Republicans, among them Michael Hayden, CIA director under George W. Bush. About Trump, Hayden says, “If he governs consistent with some of the things he has said as a candidate, I would be very frightened.”
Max Boot, another well-known conservative national security professional, warns that as commander-in-chief, Trump might trigger Armageddon saying, “This is not someone who should be handed the nuclear codes.”
Compounding Hayden’s and Boot’s message is real footage of Trump engaging in what looks like a spastic dance with a clear subliminal message, “Beware of the crazy man.”
The final jujutsu is none other than Republican icon Charles Krauthammer. In a clip from a prior television appearance he says, “You have to ask yourself, do I want a person of that temperament controlling the nuclear codes? And as of right now, I’d have to say no.”
Krauthammer’s statement cuts to an exasperated audible sigh from Bill O’Reilly. The clip is edited to appear as if O’Reilly is directly responding to Krauthammer, who happens to be a frequent guest on O’Reilly’s top-rated Fox News show.
“Unfit” practically mirrors “Daisy” minus the nuclear explosion and Johnson’s foreboding voiceover with the blatant message: Vote for Clinton to prevent Trump from waging nuclear war and blowing up the world.
Ironically, LBJ’s sentence from “Daisy” — “We must either love each other, or we must die” — would come back to haunt him as Johnson blew up the Vietnam War at the cost of 58,220 American lives.
Hillary, who famously campaigned as a “Goldwater girl” during the 1964 campaign, now, over five decades later, hammers home LBJ’s nuclear fear message as evidenced by the last frame of “Unfit.” With no voiceover, the screen reads:
Donald Trump Too Dangerous.
Coincidentally (or not?) Clinton’s timing for airing “Unfit” is perfect. While she plants in the minds of voters the “Daisy”-like fear of electing a nuclear trigger-happy madman, a New York Times headline (and many others) reported that “50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation’s Security ‘at Risk.’”
Whereas Clinton goes for a direct hit ending “Unfit” by name calling Trump “too dangerous,” LBJ’s “Daisy” had a far tamer ending when a serious male voice warned, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd; the stakes are too high for you to stay home.”
No doubt that Trump eventually will air his own fearmongering “Daisy” type ads against Clinton. (At this writing Trump’s campaign has yet to air any television ads.) But for now, voters on all sides can agree: “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”
Cross-posted at BizPac Review