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Friday, September 29, 2023
Sept. 29, 2023

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Schram: Radio daze messaging in video age


Last week, Americans were astonished to discover that the most famous Democratic elder statesman and Republican rookie in our national politics have something very basic in common. And it is driving their most fervent faithful bonkers.

We are talking, of course, about President Joe Biden and Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis. And what they have in common, as you just saw and heard, is how flummoxed they are when trying to showcase themselves and their views in the total-tech video age.

Wednesday was supposed to become the biggest day of DeSantis’ national political life — the announcement that he was running for president. It’s the political moment that can become an image we remember forever: The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, standing in the breeze, Statue of Liberty at his back, bright blue sky as he said something about patriotism and a better future. Even Donald and Melania sent their idea of a forever message: gliding down their golden escalator.

So DeSantis carefully planned his announcement so he’d be sure you knew he intended to hit the ground running. And finally, Wednesday, he took his first step — right onto an upturned rake.


DeSantis had bizarrely arranged a golden message moment that would be a voice-only Twitter livestream. Zero memorable visual image. He’d be hosted by Elon Musk, Twitter’s owner, who created and controls Tesla and sends rockets into space. So what could go wrong?

Everything. The DeSantis Show was a no-go from the get-go. It sputtered and went silent. More than 500,000 listeners (less than you might expect) apparently overwhelmed Musk’s machine. Two minutes later it sputtered to life, only to dead-mic again — a nonperformance befitting a guy who invented an EV Yugo. After 25 minutes of radio silence, DeSantis finally announced: “I am running for president of the United States to lead our great American comeback.” Come again?

No doubt DeSantis did create one unity triumph — he undoubtedly got both Donald Trump and Joe Biden laughing at him. But Biden’s most stalwart Democrats are frustrated at how the White House has lost control of its best message — that a debt default calamity is just days away, and it is being caused only by Republicans who refused to extend the debt ceiling as they routinely did under Trump and past Republican presidents. Why? Just to make Biden look bad.

The problem isn’t future spending; it is old debts created by money spent long ago by both parties — and also by revenue that Republicans chose not to collect from rich corporations that pay zero taxes and billionaires who pay a lower tax percentage than you do.

For weeks, Biden’s White House was content to let Republicans control the debt ceiling messaging. Belatedly but finally, Biden oddly used a Thursday military event where he named his new joint chiefs chairman to regain a bit of control over his debt ceiling message. He said the debt ceiling must be raised now, regardless of negotiations on future spending.

Biden and congressional Democratic leaders should have better controlled their message by holding visually compelling events stressing that Democrats are seeking to lower future deficits by both cutting spending and increasing tax revenue from wealthy corporations and citizens.

EPILOGUE: Half a century ago, Republican Richard Nixon famously warned us, in a presidential tax reform message: “Special preferences in the law permit far too many Americans to pay less than their fair share of taxes. Too many others bear too much of the tax burden.”

Soon after, the IRS ruled Nixon took an improper deduction and didn’t pay his fair share of taxes either — until the IRS forced him to. So here’s today’s bottom line debt ceiling message: Nixon was right — too many didn’t pay “their fair share” of taxes back then. They still don’t. We must demand that Republicans join Democrats and finally require the wealthiest in our midst to all pay their fair share.