Be Not Afraid to Go Beyond the Conventional ‘News’ Frame

Thank God for ads in presidential campaigns (really!), which can become news event in themselves. At their best, they are educational opportunities and today we have one such example. The “Be Not Afraid” ad that the Romney campaign released this morning is a classic example of how campaigns can transcend the mainstream media with ads on social media and broadcast TV. The ad gives his speech in Poland last week a second life. Like Romney’s “We are all Catholic today” comments in Ohio, the speech is instructional in this current fight over the definition of religious freedom in America.

By the time Governor Romney made it to Poland, the narrative had already been established by the chatterverse: ‘Foreign Trip, Failure.’ Then a rude word or two from an aide became the instrument for hammering the narrative home. But the foreign trip included some winning moments and a window into Romney’s vision thing. You saw it in particular in that Poland speech.

In Warsaw, Romney said:

This is a country that made a prisoner a president … that went from foreign domination to the proud and independent nation you are today. And now, for both our nations, the challenge is to be worthy of this legacy as we find a way forward. The false gods of the all-powerful state claim the allegiance of a lonely few. It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all.

This is what this election is about. And, yes, jobs, too, are a part of that picture: Freeing small business from some of the added regulatory harnesses the Obama administration has burdened them with. Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor Beckey Kleefisch is “jobs ambassador” in the state and she’s worried about this big picture. Voters of all political stripes need to take a few steps back from political party and consider identity. Who are we? What do we stand for? This is what this election is about in fundamental ways. It doesn’t make you a party partisan to reflect and make a choice.

As Kleefisch told me recently: “Small-business owners are scared right now…. Our small-business owners are wondering if they even want to be entrepreneurs. They’re thinking in advance, ‘How can I limit my growth?’ That’s not American. That’s not who we are. And that’s a health-care law? A plan that’s supposed to be good for people’s health is causing our businesses to anticipate how they’re going to atrophy? It makes me sad as a small-business advocate, as a former small-business owner. That should never have been a side effect of a health-care bill.”

She said she’s sad but she’s also outraged and motivated. Americans are “tired” of this, as Mitt Romney put it yesterday.

And a word about “war” in the Romney “Be Not Afraid” ad. I often hesitate myself to use the phrase “war on religion.” It works great for Newt Gingrich getting a rise out of people who already see what the government is doing here – or who otherwise understand the threats this administrations’ policies pose to America as we’ve known it. But if you’re undecided, or otherwise reachable by the Romney campaign, will the word make you recoil? Because it seems unbelievable? War is in Sudan. We went to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks on us. But it’s worth pointing out that it was Kathleen Sebelius herself, the mother of the Department of Health and Human Services contraception, sterilization, abortion-inducing drug mandate, who said they’re at war. And the president is quite proud of this all, as he made clear as Sandra Fluke introduced him yesterday in Denver. From an earlier piece of mine:

“We are in a war,” she told a recent Chicago Power of Choice Luncheon. Opponents of the administration, she said, are trying to “roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America”. And, now that the bill has passed so we can know what is in it, President Obama does have his moments. During a fundraiser in St. Louis this fall, the president spoke about the health-care law: “Think about what it means for women”. A man in the audience immediately replied, “Birth control”. And President Obama confirmed: “Absolutely. You’re stealing my line”.

“No longer can insurance companies discriminate against women just because you guys are the ones who have to give birth,” he went on. Another audience member engaged: “Darn right!” to which Obama responded: “Darn tooting.”

The war on women rhetoric coming out of the president’s reelection campaign is so insulting — a blatant, cynical play for the women they lost in the midterms. And this “war” the administration — driving the actual practice from the public square (in federal court, the Department of Justice has argued that you give up your religious liberty when you run a business) — has waged is so unnecessary. In Poland, in Ohio, in this new ad, the Romney campaign indicates the former governor of Massachusetts doesn’t intend on letting religious liberty in America be redefined — to the detriment of more than Catholics — without a fight.

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