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Packaging the Presidency:
"If political advertising did not exist, we would have to invent it," writes Katherine Hall Jamieson in her widely-praised study of the subject Packaging the Presidency. Looking at the media campaigns of American presidents from the early days of the Republic to the present, Jamieson chronicles the evolution of the campaign ad from handbill and newspaper cartoon, through radio and television coverage. The argument that emerges from this extensively researched study is subtle but persuasive: though often equivocal, and even downright sleazy, political advertising is vital in reminding voters of the choices at the heart of democracy.
Much of the book, appropriately, focuses on the powerful media campaigns of the post-war period. In individual chapters devoted to presidential campaigns since 1952, the claims of media strategists, campaign memos, and journalists frame discussions on the impact of candidates from Adlai Stevenson, to Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, and, of course, that most skilled of media practitioners Ronald Reagan. Where the original edition of Packaging the Presidency ended with a brief commentary on the 1984 race, this revised edition adds two new chapters fully expanding on the most recent presidential races. Stringent comments on the 1984 campaign cover media representations of the rise and fall of Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale's fatal adherence to "taxonomics", and Reagan's appeals to flag-waving patriotism. In an in-depth analysis of the 1988 race, Jamieson shows how George Bush's media managers successfully annexed traditionally Democratic themes of caring and compassion, while simultaneously running an infamously dirty campaign.
Just as political advertising is neither as innocent or invidious as it is frequently described, voters are more independent than cynics (and perhaps political advertisers) would like to believe. Exaggeration, gross slander, avoidance of difficult issues can all backfire on a candidate. As this fine study convincingly demonstrates, the successful "packaging" of presidents is a complex, and far from automatic, process. [via]