Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones' San Francisco (not Frisco) office. Reach him at dgilson@motherjones.com. Follow him on Twitter or read more of his stories.

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The TV Attack Ad Gets a New Lease on Life

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 3:49 PM EDT
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While we're talking about our new Politics 2.0 package and yesterday's Supreme Court decisions, let's take a moment to ponder the future of that less than beloved institution, the 30-second TV attack ad.

In "The Attack Ad's Second Life," Leslie Savan and I examined the idea that the newfound ease of video production and distribution will kill off the negative election ad. Are the days of Willie Horton and "Harold—call me" over? Are we headed into an unregulated, bottomless pit of "macaca" moments on-demand and YouTube mash-ups? Advertising Age columnist and On the Media Host Bob Garfield thinks that TV ads are definitely on the way out—and that's a good thing: "Nobody is going to opt in to see somebody's legislative votes misrepresented in an attack ad—because why would you?" Yet that's not to say that TV ads won't play a role in 2008, or that they won't be as lowdown and dirty as ever.

And now, a new Supreme Court ruling virtually ensures that that will be the case. In another 5-4 decision, the court struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law that prohibited pre-election ads paid for by unions or corporations. The majority ruled that such ads can not be banned unless they explicitly encourage voters to vote for or against a candidate. This will no doubt open the floodgates for a new slew of "issue ads"—attack ads that not so subtly go after candidates under the guise of informing voters. What this really means—for online fundraising, for swing voters, for the future of McCain-Feingold—remains to be seen. But it seems clear that even if the 2008 race is the TV attack ad's death rattle, its demise will be anything but pretty.

Taking Cheney at His Word

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:43 PM EDT

Two can play this game. In response to Dick Cheney's claim that he's not part of the executive branch, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Il.) is taking him at his word and proposing cutting the vice president's office from executive branch funding. Says Emanuel: "If the vice president truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001 and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill." Should the proposal pass, Senate President Cheney would presumably receive full funding to execute his constitutional duty to periodically tell lawmakers to go F themselves.

Free Speech Takes a Big Hit in "Bong" Case

| Tue Jun. 26, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Well, that sure ended badly. The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools can limit students' speech if they express themselves in a way that might be construed as pro-drug. The case in question involved an Alaska student who'd been suspended after he unfurled a tongue-in-cheek banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school event. Chief Justice Roberts argued that because the banner just might give someone the idea that toking up is OK, it could be suppressed: ''The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic. But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." By that standard, couldn't someone reasonably interpret the banner as a religious message and therefore demand its protection? Apparently not.

When this case hit the docket a few months ago, I figured it would be a novelty. Boy, was I wrong. The decision was 5-4, but you already knew that, right?

More on Our New Fourth Branch of Government

| Fri Jun. 22, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

Ever-helpful White House spokesperson Dana Perino addresses the curious question of whether Dick Cheney is his own special branch of government:

Q: Do you agree with the contention that the Office of the Vice President is not part of the executive branch?

MS. PERINO: What I know -- and I am not a lawyer; and this is an interesting constitutional question that legal scholars can debate and I'm sure you'll find plenty of them inside the beltway -- is that the Vice President has a unique role in our United States government. He is not only the Vice President of the United States, but in that role he is also the President of the Senate. I will let him go ahead and --

Q: So there's a fourth branch of government.

MS. PERINO: -- I will let that debate be held.

So Cheney's not part of the executive because he's part of the legislative branch. Fascinating. And you gotta love Perino's deft use of the old "We've Made Up Our Minds, But You're Welcome to Debate This" move from the Bush Rhetorical Playbook.

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