“Mary Fallin. Because no one cares more about Oklahoma. No one.”
The above text or a version of it that end Gov. Mary Fallin’s reelection campaign television advertisements have become especially grating to me for different reasons.
I hear those lines, and I cringe. No one cringes more than me. No one.
I know I could be accused of nitpicking here, and I’m certainly not going to apply some faux-Pinocchio media test about truthfulness to Fallin’s ads, but I still do think it’s important to delve deeper into such hollow political discourse rather than just numbly and dumbly accept it as part of life as an American citizen trying to participate in the election process. No wonder voter turnout is so low here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
So here are my problems with those particular lines:
(1) It’s a sweeping generalization that can never be measured or proven in any quantifiable manner. We can assume Fallin means that there are other people who care just as much as she does about Oklahoma, but that no one, absolutely no one, cares more. Does Fallin constantly care about Oklahoma throughout the day? How many hours? Does she ever not care about Oklahoma? What about when she’s watching a movie? What about other state leaders and the possibility they actually care more about Oklahoma than Fallin does at any given moment in the day? How do you measure it? How do you define it?
(2) What does it mean to care for a state, anyway? Is that necessarily a great attribute in itself? What if you care about more than one state or even more than one country? What if you care about four or even five states? By using the word care, we can also probably assume Fallin means she cares about people that live in Oklahoma as well as, say, the state’s natural beauty. Yet many people would argue that Fallin has a funny way of caring about certain groups of people who live in Oklahoma, such as students who attend underfunded schools and low-income people who can’t afford health care. Remember, no one cares more than Fallin does. No one.
(3) Generally speaking, I know that in the advertising world grating and annoying repetition in commercials can reap rewards for companies. Is this the intent of the Fallin campaign, sort of like the use of the Aflac duck? If so, it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach. I also wonder if the numbing repetition even works in the case of an incumbent governor who has fallen in popularity. Anyone still riding the fence in this gubernatorial election could conceivably view the lines as an insult to their intelligence or, probably more so, simply as an aggravating nuisance as they’re trying to watch the six o’clock news.
Does any of this really matter in the larger scheme of our political campaign system? Well, I’ll say this: No one cares more about this issue of reductionist and clichéd political discourse than me. No one.*
*Slight qualification. Okay, except for the millions of other people in this country who care about it, too.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe won’t even let the deadly Ebola virus get in the way of one of his political stunts.
Last week, Inhofe single handedly but temporarily held up $750 million in federal funding for the Department of Defense to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. The House had earlier approved the funding but when it came to the Senate, Inhofe, a ranking Republican member of the Armed Services Committee that considered the legislation, held it up.
Inhofe cited concerns about what he later called a “lack of a coherent strategy” about how the funds would be used. Meanwhile, as Inhofe equivocated, Ebola cases have appeared in the United States, and the outbreak in the west African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone continues to kill a growing number of people.
On Friday, Inhofe finally relented and released a statement saying he had changed his mind. Trying to score political points, his statement, of course, was highly critical of the Obama administration, citing the “slow response by the President's State Department and international community . . . ” to the Ebola crisis. Here’s how the statement ended:
. . . because of the failure of the Obama Administration to responsibly and strategically plan in advance for how the U.S. will be involved in West Africa, it will be difficult for me to support any further last-minute funding requests using military resources. That is why I have insisted another more appropriate funding source be identified for operations beyond six months. Significant cuts to the defense budget have eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military, and I cannot support the indefinite commitment of our troops to this mission.
So try to follow Inhofe’s logic. The Obama administration was slow to respond and strategically plan so, in response, Inhofe decides to delay things even further. It doesn’t make sense because Inhofe’s real point is really to just criticize the president in an election year. Politicizing the Ebola virus may well be a new low for Inhofe, but I would have to do a thorough search through my memory bank to be entirely sure. People are dying after contracting the Ebola virus even as I write this, and Americans are increasingly worried about a major outbreak here, but that doesn’t seem to affect Inhofe.
Note the other contradiction in Inhofe’s statement. If defense cuts have actually “eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military,” which they haven’t, then wouldn’t it make more sense to actually be immediately in favor of more and not less funding for any type of military operation? Wouldn’t that help our “readiness”? Shouldn’t the military be “ready” for virus epidemics? The Defense Department, for example, had initially requested $1 billion. The money will come from an account used to fund military operations in Afghanistan.
Inhofe’s political stunts continue to attract little to no criticism from the corporate media in this state, which is a shame because Inhofe is not a good ambassador for Oklahoma in many parts of the country and world. Perhaps we have all become so used to Inhofe’s extremism and political stunts that we’ve become numb or immune. Inhofe is expected to win reelection in November so it appears we’ll have to endure his right-wing extremism for another six years. So it goes in Oklahoma these days.
It’s hypocritical and telling that The Oklahoman isn’t demanding the release of the divorce trial records of billionaire energy tycoon Harold Hamm, the chief executive officer of Oklahoma City’s Continental Resources.
As you will recall, The Oklahoman several months ago launched a full-fledged legal and political attack on Oklahoma City former mayoral candidate and current Ward 2 Councilor Ed Shadid to get him to release his old divorce records. He eventually capitulated after the newspaper hounded him relentlessly in an act of obvious support for Shadid’s opponent Mick Cornett in the mayoral election. The records essentially revealed information about Shadid’s long ago drug use that he had already discussed publicly. The newspaper then sensationalized the information in order to sway the election in Cornett’s favor.
The Reuters news agency—not The Oklahoman—has filed a motion to unseal the Oklahoma County divorce trial records of Hamm, 68, pictured right, and Sue Ann Hamm, 58. The trial recently ended. Oklahoma County Special Judge Howard Haralson earlier sealed most of the trial records, according to media reports, in a supposed effort to protect the business interests of Continental Resources, an energy company with a major stake in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation.
Let’s be clear: Hamm controls a large and important publicly held energy company. The dividing of assets in his divorce could potentially have a deep impact on the Oklahoma economy. He has also served as a top energy advisor for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He has lobbied openly for tax breaks for oil and gas companies on a state and national level. He is every bit as much of a public figure as Shadid.
For the record, I was opposed to the unsealing of Shadid’s divorce records because I sincerely believed they only contained older salacious personal accusations that have since been retracted. I was correct on the content of the records. I believe in open government records and overall government transparency, but The Oklahoman crusade against Shadid was unethical and unfair. The fact the newspaper won’t demand the release of Hamm’s divorce records as well proves this point further.
According to a Reuters spokesperson:
Continental Resources is one of the most important publicly traded companies in the U.S. oil industry.
The public has a right to know how its chief executive officer explains his role in the company's growth over the past two decades and whether, as a result of the Hamms' divorce, there may be a change in the shareholding structure of the company.
Sue Ann Hamm, an attorney, has worked at Continental. She and Hamm married in 1988. Hamm’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion, according to the Reuters’ motion, which makes him one of the richest people on the planet. It’s obvious that the division of assets in the divorce could affect the company and the local and state economy. The divorce, then, has important public implications. So where’s The Oklahoman?
The Oklahoman, it should be noted, is owned by yet another billionaire energy tycoon, Philip Anschutz.
To its credit, FOI Oklahoma, a state journalist group dedicated to the concept of freedom of information, has applauded Reuters’ action. The organization also supported The Oklahoman in its quest to unseal Shadid’s divorce records. A post on the FOI Oklahoma web site proclaims, “Kudos to Reuters for fighting to protect our right to public trials. Shame on Oklahoma’s news media for not doing so.”
Shame on The Oklahoman, in particular, for its latest act of blatant hypocrisy.