Columns » John Brummett

Boozman: superman or superficial?

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John Boozman is hardly the first political candidate to advance breathtakingly superficial arguments in television advertising.

The medium requires simplicity and brevity. By its very nature, it invites the antithesis of full and fair context.

That's because of the steep cost of the time and the uncertain attention span of the viewer. If you attempt full and fair context on TV, then you risk having the viewer punch the remote control device.

But I must say that Boozman, to be such a nice and gentle and seemingly harmless creature, is really playing you for a serious chump.

First there was that commercial that he had to redo because he put a Razorback image in it. In it Boozman says "I'll balance the budget."

Unless he's talking about his household checkbook instead of the trillion-plus federal deficit, then he may as well go ahead and declare that he'll solve the Middle East.

Who knew that the quagmire of the federal government's deficit-laden budget could be singularly overcome by one soft-spoken optometrist — not even an ophthalmologist — out of Fort Smith and Rogers?

That "S" on his chest — does it stand for "superman" or "superficial"? Or is it "silly"?

How will he get this done? By what singular authority? Where will he make these hundreds of billions of dollars in unilateral federal spending reductions?

There's no time for that on TV.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Boozman's campaign manager and Mike Huckabee's daughter, scoffed when I got her on the phone to complain about this nonsensical superficiality. She's a good scoffer, coming by it honestly both from her mother and father. Her candidate is not being "disingenuous," she said. It is fully understood by everyone, she said, that no U.S. senator can do anything alone, but must work with others. You don't have time in these television commercials, she said, to waste a couple of seconds by adding "work with others to" between "I'll" and "balance the budget." Give her a big old break, she said.

I could more easily give her and her candidate a big old break on that than on the newest commercial in which a couple of old boys, actors, I guess, and bad ones, pretend to be fishing while they defend Boozman against that mean Blanche Lincoln.

Boozman has signed on as a sponsor of legislation to abolish the income tax and replace it with a flat sales tax of 23 percent. He also has endorsed the idea of letting people keep part of their Social Security deductions to invest themselves.

So Lincoln says — quite rightly — that analysts on both partisan sides have said over the years that a flat sales tax would hit middle-income people hardest and spare rich folks who would be at liberty to invest some of their income tax-free money rather than expend it necessarily on steeply taxed essentials of existence.

And she says — just as rightly — that to take money out of Social Security and let individuals risk blowing it with bad investments would invite the very ruination of this vital contract.

What does Boozman say to all that? Nothing. Instead he has two old boys go on TV and pretend to be fishing while they assure each other that dear, sweet John only wants to cut taxes and protect seniors.

Boozman's big poll lead may be narrowing. There'd be justice in that.

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