NORFOLK-- Virginia’s airwaves have been saturated with political commercials this political season. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, WVEC-TV has launched “Ad Watch.”
Over the next several weeks, local college and university political scholars will dissect candidates’ ads to determine which are making the grade in terms of stylistic presentation, accuracy and integrity.
First up is Democratic senate candidate Tim Kaine's ad called “Actions Matter.” It has no announcer and no dramatic music. Kaine looks down the barrel of the camera, speaking directly to the voters.
In terms of presentation, Regent University School of Government Dean Chuck Dunn likes it.
“If I’m looking at authenticity and simplicity, I score him on that ad as an A.” said Dunn.
However, on substance, Dunn is less generous with his grading.
Kaine boasts about having balanced the state’s budget while governor. According to Dunn, all Virginia governors are required by the state constitution to craft and present the legislature a balanced budget. Kaine left that part out.
“A half-truth is not truth,” said Dunn, adding, “It’s a question of context. Not revealing the full context. If he would’ve revealed the full context and made those same points, I would’ve graded the entire ad an A.”
In the commercial, Kaine also discusses Republican candidate George Allen’s record as governor and senator, making little distinction between the two.
According to Kaine, “George Allen increased spending by 45 percent as governor, helped turn a record surplus into a deficit; as senator, voted four times to raise the debt ceiling.”
However, Politifact Virginia, on its “Truth-o-Meter,” rates Kaine’s claim about the surplus as “half true,” saying there is validity to the claim, but the numbers in question needed to be adjusted for inflation.
Politifact says that Kaine’s contention that Allen voted to raise his own pay is “mostly true,” noting that Allen did vote at least three times against bills that would’ve prevented the automatic congressional raises from going into effect.
Dunn reserved his harshest criticism for Kaine’s remarks about Allen’s votes on the debt ceiling increase.
"Voting to increase the debt ceiling? Context is important. Would Kaine have done differently? He would’ve voted to increase the debt ceiling, so, we have to say, give me a break on this,” Dunn said.
When it came time to issue a final grade, Dunn called “Actions Matter” a “mixed bag.”
"While I’d score the ad an A for authenticity and simplicity, when it comes to integrity, well, if this were getting a grade in my class, it would get a C at best, and probably lower, because the ad lacks proper context,” Dunn said.
Next week, WVEC-TV's "Ad Watch" will look at a commercial from Republican candidate George Allen.