Saturday, April 5, 2008

Candidates can hit the child abuse prevention jackpot

(Originally published 4/5/08)

A media watchdog group reported this week that when it comes to destination advertising for presidential candidates, nothing beats the Wheel – of Fortune, that is.

CNN tells us that Barack Obama has spent more than $1 million on "Wheel" so far, followed by Hillary Clinton at $815,000 and John McCain at $168,000 (remember, he’s still catching up from having just missed the dreaded BANKRUPT wedge last summer).

Why “Wheel?” It’s "inexpensive but also efficient," because it typically follows the news and leads into prime time, according to the story.

My first thought was to propose a riveting showdown around the “Wheel” for the candidates. This is the year for change, right? So, out with old – Tim Russert, stuffy debates and browbeating questions – and in with the new: Pat Sajak, Mystery Wedges and Free Spins! How better to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show than with “Wheel of Fortune: I Want to be President Edition” and categories like, “Famous American Pastors,” “Disavowed 90s trade deals” and “Quotes from Chairman Mao?”

Alas, our candidates’ plotters and planners would surely disapprove; after all, Clinton didn’t challenge Obama to the Pennsylvania bowling match until he had already plunked one right into the gutter. But a girl can dream.

And then I read the rest of the article. Spending on all individual television shows is dwarfed by what the candidates are already dropping on local news: a whopping $36.7 million combined.

Suddenly, the story wasn’t funny anymore.

If you ever bump into me at the grocery store, ask me about any political issue you want. But be prepared for your ice cream to melt if you bring up campaign finance. I’ll pack your ears all day long about the evils of money in the system, how it is the Berlin Wall between Americans and good policy, how it enslaves well-meaning public servants with shackles of silver.

So when I consider the kinds of problems our nation faces, and then I read that our presidential candidates have spent $40 million on television ads so far, it makes me sad for my country. And then it makes me angry.

But there was another report this week: 91,000 babies a year old and younger are victims of nonfatal child abuse or neglect in a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 30,000 were one week old or younger when the abuse or neglect occurred.

The worst part? Experts believe these numbers are low.

But, advocates say, better access to prenatal care, drug treatment, education and early intervention programs can do a lot to put a stop to this outrage.

Hey, candidates: Do you really believe in change? Here’s a challenge for you: Scrap your TV ads for next month and donate that money in your ad budget to domestic violence shelters and/or child welfare programs.

I dare you.

It will impress voters, who will also appreciate the break from those omnipresent spots. But more importantly, your dollars will make the most critical of differences in the lives of the little ones you’ll help protect.

  • Finally, the nation observed the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday. A survey released this week reports that 76 percent of Americans believe that the United States is ready for its first black president. Perhaps that’s a fitting indicator of King’s legacy: indicative of all that King and his work accomplished, but also telling of the work left undone.

  • Stop on by the blog this weekend.

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