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From Bear In The Woods

Saturday, March 7, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The latest from our favorite, anonymous advertising exec:

Hugh:

I’m enjoying the letters I’m getting from readers. I’m grateful to
have so much support. I’ll apologize in advance if I’m out of
communication for the next several weeks — my agency has several large projects I must attend to, and I plan to be at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival for at least a couple of days. Still, I do like hearing others’ take on my submissions. My email is: bearinthewoods84@gmail.com — I promise to return messages as quickly as I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of weeks about the
communications strategies and tactics that are currently being
employed in favor of White House and Congressional initiatives, and against all who oppose them. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how discordant the GOP’s response has been. There are bright spots, to be sure. A groundswell of grassroots activism in the form of Tea Parties. The Speech. And growing discussions I’m hearing, especially amongst young voters and moderates who are realizing they’re getting a bit more than they bargained for. The problem I’m having is that I’m not hearing a universal emotional truth that resonates across broad swaths of voters. I’m hearing wonderfully articulated arguments, and some good old-fashioned common sense. I’m just not hearing it boiled down into something that’s easily embraced. But the more I think, the more I think a potential unifying mantra is staring us in the face. At the risk of being presumptuous, I have a suggestion:[# More #]

The two most powerful words in advertising have always been: “Free” and “Truth.”

The problem is, once they get turned into marketing language, they sometimes develop twisted meanings. But, if, in fact, marketers can use the words legitimately, they absolutely should employ them whenever possible. It’s important to understand that many times, though, the two words conflict. Yes, something might be “Free,” but the “Truth” is, in the end, you still have to pay.

It’s clear the Democrats have embraced the concept of “Free.” Just look at all the stuff they’re “giving” away. I’m reminded of a
discussion I had a few years ago with a Canadian friend of mine — and no, it wasn’t about health care — but it was about some other
government program from which he believed he was getting free
services. “The government’s going to pay for it!” He was ecstatic. Then I asked him his tax rate. Although he made less than half of what I made at the time, his rate was 15 points higher. A lightbulb went off when he realized that yes, the government was paying for his service — with his money. This is the twisted concept of “Free” the American people are being sold by congress and the president. But “Free” is seductive. And emotional. And people are almost universally willing to buy it. The Democrats are, quite literally, banking on it.

But, then, there’s the Truth. One of the most successful public
service campaigns in recent memory has been “The Truth” campaign against smoking. Just the facts. Just the truth. Presented in a raw, yet emotionally arresting way.

When, in times past, Republicans have presented the Truth in an
emotionally arresting, and creatively competent way (The Bear in the Woods, The Contract With America) we’ve succeeded. I’ll even throw in the Swift Boat spots for good measure here, just to make a point. When we’ve failed, we’ve done one of two things: (A) We’ve failed to live the Truth, for instance, by becoming big spenders while telling the country we’re not, or by shutting down communication altogether, thus obscuring the Truth; or (B) we’ve failed to articulate the Truth in a way that is concise and emotionally appealing. Which is why I frequently liken GOP responses to Liberal banner waving as the communications equivalent of a white paper.

The Truth is powerful on its own. It can be spoken in short sentences.

The Truth is simple. The Truth is pure. The Truth trumps opinion.
And although “Free” is frequently considered the more powerful
marketing word, the truth is, the Truth wins head to head.
Irrefutable Truth eventually ends every argument. Emotional Truth
eventually wins every heart and mind. There is, right this very
moment, a massive opportunity for the Right to not only embrace, but to — in a marketing sense — “own” the concept of, and the very word: Truth.

The Democrats have gone too far down the road, now, of a faux concept of “Free,” and made too many missteps along that road, to be able to own them both. It’s ours for the taking, and the American people are showing every sign of hunger for exactly that: The Truth.

To pull it off, though, we must live as we speak. We can’t call out
their pork, and ignore or brush off ours. We can’t talk around our
own mistakes — we have to own up. Living up to the Truth is
difficult, in the best of times. But even in times like these, it’s
never impossible. I agree with Ann Coulter’s take in Guilty that the Truth infuriates both Democrats and the mainstream media. Because both have such trouble owning up to it. The time is now. Not only do we have the opportunity to be the voice of Truth, I’ll submit that we have the duty. Just imagine how, plainly stated, Truth stands up to what we now know are the Democrats’ versions of the following: Free, Change, Hope, Bipartisanship, Fairness, Transparency….I could go on, but I don’t see the need.

The truth is, our mantra is staring us in the face. We need to live
the concept, so the word has power. But we need to use the word. Literally, use it, the way the Democrats used the word: “Change.”
With purpose and conviction. Over and over. We have the
opportunity to give America what it desperately needs and wants the most: The Truth. And the best part is, the Truth is on our side.

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Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett on the Pentagon and the Century Ahead

Friday, March 6, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Duane sits in for me tonight on the last day of my break, but the show begins with a conversation taped last week with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett about the Pentagon chapter in his new book, Great Powers. The transcript will be posted here later tonight.

Give Barnett a much deserved read (it will cheer investors everywhere, because Barnett takes the medium-to-long view) and Duane a listen (and the tweets predicting a “Duane wreck” are wrong…I hope.) Back on Monday.

Great Powers: America and the World After Bush

The GOP and CPSIA

Thursday, March 5, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Wall Street Journal has a detailed piece on the insanity of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act in today’s paper. (For background, listen to my interview 10 days ago with Snell & Wilmer CPSIA expert Gary Wolensky.) The key graphs from the WSJ:

“We have millions of dollars worth of merchandise sitting in 30 40-foot-long trailers waiting to be hauled out to a landfill somewhere,” says Michael Klein, president of Constructive Playthings Inc., a closely held Missouri toy maker. The banned products include beach balls, inflatable toy guitars and blow-up palm trees.

Local outposts of Goodwill Industries International are also “filling up trailers with the stuff,” says Jim Gibbons, chief executive of the charitable group, which collects and distributes used clothes. The law affects clothing because lead is sometimes used in buttons, zippers, rhinestones and other embellishments.

Goodwill’s Mr. Gibbons says its stores may have to destroy $170 million in merchandise. The Salvation Army say it will have $100 million in lost sales and disposal costs related to used goods.

The trade groups and charities have been lobbying for an exemption to enable them to sell the problem goods, saying the danger to consumers is minimal, but so far they have failed to get much congressional attention.

The Toy Industry Association estimates that more than $600 million in toys made illegal by the law are sitting in manufacturers’ warehouses or have already been shipped to retailers. A trade group for small apparel makers in New York called the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear says its members have a $500 million problem. And the California Fashion Association, which represents many Western clothes makers, puts their troubled inventories at $200 million.

Read the whole thing.

I have been arguing for two weeks that Congressional Republicans should seize on the CPSIA and its unintended consequences as a teaching tool for the public on the inability of the Democratic Congress to get even easy laws right without triggering huge damage to private business. CPSIA exhibits every bad aspect of Democratic legislation, from the easy moralizing of its sponsors to terrible draftsmanship, but the bottom line is it is costing hundreds of millions in wasted product and who knows how many jobs in the middle of a tough recession.

A joint press conference between Senate and House GOP leaders outlining the devastation and demanding quick action to reform the law combined with a connect-the-dots follow-up to card check and health care “reform,” would set the stage for repeated arguments this spring, summer and fall that begin: “Remember the CPSIA fiasco where Congress ended up outlawing a billion dollars in perfectly acceptable toys and shuttering hundreds of businesses, well this legislation makes that fiasco look like a model of efficiency.” The GOP needs to make the incompetence of the Congress and Administration on the economy the key issue going forward, and CPSIA is proof that Democratic promises of “reform” are at best empty and actually quite destructive of real economic growth.

I continue to avoid e-mails during vacation week, so if you have questions on CPSIA, write lawyer Wolensky, who has just returned from a trip to D.C. to lobby lawmakers on fixing this fiasco. He can be reached at gwolensky@swlaw.com.

The Rush To Rush Judgment

Wednesday, March 4, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Judging from my e-mail, my guest host Jim Geraghty had David Frum on yesterday talking about Rush and the GOP. Not sure what was said, but it angered Rush fans. David’s a talented writer and pundit, but of he wants to “reform” the GOP by deeply reducing the influence of many key constituencies within the GOP, including evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons who believe the life and marriage issues matter, so of course he isn’t going to be a big fan of Rush. In any event, David criticizing Rush reminds me of the old saying about pebbles and battleships.

Today the Washington Post runs a Perry Bacon piece on Rush for which I was interviewed early last week, and which I referenced in my post on Rush from this weekend. I am not quoted in the article, so all the brilliant things I said about Rush even before the CPAC speech are not there to be read. But as I insisted –my standard policy for MSMers wanting to interview me– that the interview be taped for broadcast after the story ran, Duane will play it in the course of today’s show, which will again be guest hosted by Jim G. A transcript will be posted here later. Judge for yourself if Bacon’s piece might have ben improved by including any of my pro-Rush commentary.

Bottom line: Rush is one of the two greatest communicators in America, along with Oprah. He effectively raised the spirits of the base last weekend in a way no Republican had since last November. The party would be in much worse shape without him, and the Dems know that and are using this moment to try and brand him a burden on the party so as to diminish his effectiveness. Only the easily confused will fail to understand that every effective spokesman for conservative principles is necessary, and that Rush is the most effective spokesman the right has right now. He is not a “leader” of the party in the way that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are –designated to negotiate on behalf of their elected colleagues on when and how to work with the new Administration.

But he is one of the major voices of the loyal opposition. Long may he prosper.

BTW: I am not in any way upset that Perry Bacon didn’t use any of my analysis for his piece. Events have overtaken our conversation, so it is less relevant than when it occurred.

I do note, however, that using David Frum as a source elevates David far beyond his influence in the party or among conservatives. Given that the vast majority of center-right influencers would speak highly of Rush’s talent and principles, sound journalism would have had Bacon using one of us as opposed to Congressman Kingston to balance Frum.

A final note before going back to vacation mode: Kindle 2.0 is wonderful, an extraordinary device for many reasons, and the perfect antidote to any gloominess about American inventiveness and future productivity.

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