MOYERS: You probably don't need any prodding to remember that this is campaign season.
There are only 25 more days to the midterm election.
And the prize is control of Congress.
The Democrats hold the Senate by only one vote, and the Republicans rule the House by six.
Republicans hope to end up owning Congress and the White House, which would mean they would have the whole of national government in their pocket.
The executive branch, the regulatory agencies, the courts.
Quite a windfall.
With stakes like that, candidates across the country are making all the stops, and pulling out all the stops.
Here's what I mean.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I support the president's efforts to lower taxes.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: So many people have lost so much, their college savings.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I think the most important lessons I've learned in my life may have come from the jobs I had working my way through college.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Defense spending means security for our families, and it means jobs for our workers.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: On tax cuts, Daschle said no.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I was proud to be with the first group of U.S. Senators to go to Afghanistan.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I never want to know more about Washington than I do about Minnesota.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Bipartisan praise for his common sense conservative decisions.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: And like this sign that was on my father's desk says, I'll always put Arkansas first.
MOYERS: Joining us again to help figure out the real message behind all of those ads is Kathleen Hall Jamieson, one of the country's top analysts on politics, and the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communications.
She has a new book out this week called, THE PRESS EFFECT. Nice to see you again.
JAMIESON: Thank you.
MOYERS: It seems to me that George W. Bush has won the first round in the war against Iraq, that he's got the Democrats on the defensive.
And Democrats uniting behind the bush premise, which is that the president is making the right decisions here, which means that the Democrats are trying if humanly possible to re-center this election away from differences on Iraq and on the domestic agenda.
MOYERS: You've just come from Minnesota where Senator Paul Wellstone, the incumbent Democrat announce that had he was against the resolution giving the president what he wanted.
And the Republicans have come after him on this issue.
Take a look at this ad.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: In 1990, Paul Wellstone promise to slash our national defense by at least $200 billion.
Year in and year out, he voted for cuts.
Ask Wellstone: who are you fighting for?
MOYERS: Now, take a look at who's paying for that ad.
It's not his opponent Norman Coleman; it's the Republican Party.
What's the politics here? What's the message?
What's going on?
JAMIESON: We began seeing about four years ago, a tendency for the parties to carry the attack in campaigns and the candidates as a result would be somewhat absolved of that responsibility.
MOYERS: Do you think this is healthy for politics, that the party becomes more accountable, more responsible, takes more of a position?
JAMIESON: No, actually, I think it's unhealthy, for this reason.
We're taking away from the American people to use party as a short cut to understand candidates.
So I prefer that parties use their money to tell us what Republicans stand for and what Democrats stand for and not as a surrogate for attacking.
MOYERS: Next door to Minnesota, South Dakota, there's a really fierce race going on between the Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson and his Republican challenger John Thune.
Have you watched the ads on that?
MOYERS: Let's take a look at a couple of them.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Al Qaida terrorists, Saddam Hussein, enemies of America, working to obtain nuclear weapons.
Now more than ever our nation must have a missile defense system to shoot down missiles fired at America.
Yet Tim Johnson's voted against a missile defense system 29 different times.
MOYERS: And here's Tim Johnson's response to John Thune.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: John Thune is playing politics with the war, using scare tactics to get votes.
Tim Johnson's son is in 101 Airborne, and could be one of the first sent to Iraq.
JAMIESON: I think people who have followed the debate about missile defense are looking at this and are genuinely bewildered because we don't have a missile defense system right now and we're not going to have one in the foreseeable future.
It wouldn't have stopped the attacks in New York.
MOYERS: The hijackers can did not use ballistic missiles to attack the World Trade Center.
They used hijacked aircraft.
JAMIESON: One could actually look at this and say part of what was wrong with the debate about the missile defense shield was it focused our attention at on a threat that didn't actually exist, that wasn't imminent, and as a result, we ignored a threat that was much more likely.
MOYERS: So why would a Republican politician in the small state of South Dakota use the missile defense in his ad when it is not an issue?
JAMIESON: If you're running against a candidate who has the patriotic trump card in the form of a son in military service, you probably want to establish your patriotic credentials by some vote that might put that person at risk.
This is a battle that says on one side, he opposes the missile defense shield implication that would make us sense against his son is ready to defend us.
How dare you attack him?
MOYERS: I saw an ad last night that shows just how far President Bush has moved the Democrats so that the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Arkansas has to look as if he's on a battlefield wearing camouflage uniforms ready to take on the enemy.
Look at this ad.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I'm Mark Pryor.
Unlike some Democrats in Washington, I believe in strengthening the military, and I support the president in the War on Terrorism.
MOYERS: Freeze that for a moment. Looks as if he's on the battlefield, right?
Camouflage fatigues and all that?
JAMIESON: Either that or he's trying to hunt something in a very green environment.
MOYERS: Well, take a look at what follows.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I'm also a hunter and a gun owner and I'll protect the Second Amendment rights of every American.
MOYERS: So the battlefield is a pasture in Arkansas and he appears to be looking for the fierce spotted Ozark razorback.
What do you make of an ad like that?
JAMIESON: This ad is hurting Democrats as it advances this Democrat because it says, unlike some Democrats, this Democrat right here in his hunting gear is supporting the military.
And that suggests that a lot of those other Democrats in Washington aren't.
That's the line in that ad that suggests how far this debate has pushed the Democrats on to the defensive.
MOYERS: Let me show couple of ads in Missouri. Where Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan is facing a challenge from the Republican Jim Talent.
Both of them make it look as if he and she are tainted with corporate scandals.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: It's a matter of right and long.
We cannot let dishonest people in corporate board rooms get rich while the life savings of hard-working Americans dwindles away.
That's why I authored an amendment that is now law that keeps executives from secretly cashing in their stock.
MOYERS: And here's one from Jean Carnahan's republican opponent Jim Talent.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: When she took campaign cash from corporate executives at Global Crossing.
Executives who bankrupted the company and cost the employees their jobs and life savings.
JAMIESON: One of the things we should ask every time we see an ad is, what's the issue and what does it have to do with government?
One of these ads is trying to make the case that there's an issue and I'm being accountable.
The other is trying to make the case that, she's not really telling you the truth.
You can't trust her no matter what she said.
The second ad isn't actually addressing anything that the first ad said, but it creates the illusion is that it is, which is something called pseudo-rebuttal.
It sets up the suggestion that it's rebutting the other side and then it doesn't actually do that.
And in that kind of an exchange, one would love to have someone say, "stop for a moment, please.
Could you tell us where you stand on corporate accountability?
Could you tell us how you would have voted in the areas that she's identifying votes?
And could you please tell us what difference those votes are going to make in my life?"
Because the implication of that first ad after all is because I'm there protecting you, your pension is safer than it otherwise would have been.
MOYERS: If in fact President Bush has won the first round of the war against Iraq and has Democrats on the defensive about patriotism and the war, it seems to me that democrats have won the fight over Social Security... That all across the country Democrats have Republicans on the defensive on this issue.
What do you think about that?
JAMIESON: I agree with you absolutely.
And the first test of this is, who's controlling the language?
The Republicans won't use the word privatization.
They won't use the word partial privatization either, which is the Republicans have fled that language from the beginning.
They instead talk about investing in personal retirement accounts or investing in the stock market, individuals investing in the stock market.
The problem with saying, in the "stock market," however, these days, is people don't feel very safe about being invested in the stock market.
So the Republicans shifted again to talk about Individual Retirement Accounts.
They're trying to move to individual control rather than government control.
Any time you see a party fleeing from one linguistic preserve to another you know that it's losing the battle of language.
MOYERS: The battle of language.
JAMIESON: Of language.
MOYERS: What should voters look for in this fight over Social Security when they watch these ads?
JAMIESON: Well, the first thing, and we talked about this before, is the we don't have enough revenue coming into the Social Security system right now through the payroll tax to ensure its long term survivability.
Current seniors are safe and fine.
But we're going to hit a problem in the foreseeable future, and the sooner we address that the greater the likelihood that we get that problem solved with less pain.
Now, you'll notice, nobody's talking about that.
Instead, we're debating whether or not it's a good idea to partially privatize social security... Democrats' language.
You notice nobody's talking about that.
Instead, we're debating whether or not it's a good idea to partially privatize Social Security.
And the Republicans don't even want to talk about that because they know that the stock market is performing poorly and they don't, as a result, want people to remember that in 2000, George Bush campaigned on that promise.
The Republicans don't want to have the debate on the terms that they actually do support,.
And there's the prospect that when the republicans... When and if the Republicans take control of the Senate and hold the House and Bush is president, that the Bush proposal which he has not backed away from and each Republican candidates haven't backed away from, they're still supporting it, they're just not talking about it.
MOYERS: Let's take a look at some ads that are being run in in a very critical race in your home state Minnesota.
Both of them speak to the Social Security issue.
WELLSTONE POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: So many people have lost so much, their college savings, their retirement savings.
Americans have lost $630 billion in their pension plans and 401 k's in the last two years.
What's really troubling now that there is still... There are still so many people that are pushing to put Social Security trust money into the stock market.
MOYERS: And Norman Coleman's response.
COLEMAN POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: On the 50th anniversary of D- Day, I called my dad to say thank you.
He's worked his whole life, he's done what he could do for me and my seven brothers and sisters, and then you got folks out there scaring him saying we'll take away your Social Security, we'll privatize it, destroy what they've got.
I think that's unconscionable, that someone would scare my mom or my dad.
And I'd fight against anybody who would do that.
JAMIESON: Let me make the Coleman ad more accurate.
What Coleman is saying is, "I won't do something that they call privatization."
He's not saying, I wouldn't support putting part of the payroll tax on a voluntary basis for people into the stock market.
So the premise underlying both sets of ads is a bogus premise.
Seniors don't worry.
The question is, the next generation coming up.
And as we talk about this we really shouldn't be thinking short term.
We really ought to be asking, where are we going to get the money to make up the difference if that money is pulled out of the payroll tax and we're ignoring that part of this debate.
MOYERS: Are you saying that important elections like this cannot deal honestly and openly and frankly with important issues like that?
JAMIESON: I'm saying that if the press does a good job, this issue is opened up to be a complex important issue that has a direct impact on people's lives.
This is exactly what elections should do.
Democracy has the vehicle right.
If the press does its job to ensure that advertising doesn't mislead and that we're not distracted from the larger issues.
MOYERS: What's the vehicle?
JAMIESON: The vehicle is the press.
The vigilant press.
And often we look at the press and we say, "but they're not doing it, they're covering strategy and tactics."
Then the question is, are people going to read it?
What I can tell you about Minnesota is, it has higher readership than most other states and it has higher political participation.
So, maybe in Minnesota the answer will be yes.
MOYERS: You and I talk sometimes as if ads were the only way politicians and parties communicate with people, but there's a lot going on out there that is beyond the advertising, isn't it?
JAMIESON: The internet is being used on the Social Security issue right now by the Democrats to try to raise money.
The Democrats are out there with an internet ad whose main purpose is to get people to say, on Social Security, you've got to support us because otherwise-- and the visual cartoon suggests George Bush is going to put the young in a wheelchair and run them right down the stock market into the ground and put your grandmother in a wheelchair and run her right off a cliff.
But sometime in the next four years or so, we're going to see those kinds of political ads popping up on our screen, depending on how we register to vote and they're going to actually become the new form of political communication for us.
They're going to be stronger, more problematic than what we see on television.
MOYERS: They are much tougher so tough in fact the Republicans are crying foul.
JAMIESON: The interesting thing that just fascinates me is, we don't ever look at direct mail and say, is that fair, because we assume it's partisans speaking to partisans through the closed channel of something that came in your mailbox.
And after all, they had a stamp on it and it was sealed.
Where the same thing that occurs on television, we're outraged by it.
So it's not that the content shifted, it's that it became a mass vehicle rather than a private communication.
This internet piece is much more like direct mail, but it looks more like television because it's on your computer.
And so we bring our sense of what's appropriate mass communications to it, not our sense of what's appropriate private communications to it.
And as a result, many people judged it to be way over the bounds.
Interestingly enough, because it suggests both that the young will be driven off the stock market and the elderly will crash, it's deceptive on two grounds.
So I find it problematic on broadcasting as well.
But what the Republicans objected to was the caricature of George Bush and the suggestion that he might personally push someone in a wheelchair.
The Democrats said, it's a cartoon!
They basically said, don't you have a sense of humor?
Well, underlying that are two very serious arguments, we've just spent time talking about them.
And the channel of direct mail, parties have always used the stronger appeals
MOYERS: Bold letters, capital letters...
JAMIESON: The big threat to everyone.
The categorical language.
Well, we're now seeing it migrate to the internet, and that's what I find interesting about that internet ad.
MOYERS: All of this suggests that this is a very important election.
That's no long... That's not a cliché.
JAMIESON: It's a very important election for a number of reasons.
The country in 2000 got a forecast from George Bush about one set of directions on such things as prescription drugs, Social Security, missile defense shield size, scope and immediacy, that was quite different from Al Gore.
In 2002, the Republicans aren't backing away from that agenda.
MOYERS: There are ads out there which do contain the issues that a lot of people are thinking about.
Let's take a look at a montage of some of those ads that are being played out in campaigns across the country.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: He'll ensure older Americans gain the health care security they deserve.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I understand the difference it makes whether you can afford prescription drugs or not.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: He understands that a lot of Colorado families are struggling.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: They're concerned about whether or not they're going to be able to afford to send their kids to college.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Right now in Minnesota, we are cutting teachers, we're canceling after-school programs.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: I know what happens when a dad doesn't have a job.
POLITICAL COMMERCIAL: Make health care more affordable, will solve many of our real problems.
MOYERS: Ads like that are running all across the country.
Is there a common denominator to them?
JAMIESON: The common denominator to those ads is that it costs money to address social needs.
And the issue that's not being raised in the ads is, the accountability that George Bush and the Republicans should have for the very large tax cut.
MOYERS: Nobody said that, but you're reading that out of the messages.
JAMIESON: You can't afford the teachers and the education and the health care and the prescription drugs now because the Bush tax cut has taken a lot of capacity out of the existing revenue stream to address social programs.
But nobody has had the nerve with a popular president in a time of war to take on the question, should we be delaying that tax cut that... The next stage of implementation of that tax cut.
And if the money requires rolling back a promise, is that the desirable thing to do?
And if not, where is the money going to come from?
Or do we just say, those are needs that are going to go unmet.
MOYERS: Thank you very much, Kathleen Jamieson.
I look forward to continuing this discussion.