It sounds like an early Halloween prank. After customer complaints of “scary” ads at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Republican Party Convention goers will be treated to the usual idyllic lake scenes from the local tourism board, Explore Minnesota, and similarly non-offensive advertising.
So what is so frightening? Thinking about nuclear weapons.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) placed ads that question nuclear proliferation in both airports of the two cities hosting the major party conventions this fall. The two ads were virtually the same, though changed to specifically apply to one city or another. They read:
“When only one nuclear bomb could destroy a city like [Minneapolis/Denver]… We don’t need 6,000. [Senator McCain/Senator Obama]: It’s time to get serious about reducing the nuclear threat.”
Each ad features a target focused on an aerial picture of the city in which it appears.
Northwest Airlines, which has a major hub in Minneapolis and is the official airline of the Republican Convention, has asked Clear Channel, the company who sold the ad space, to remove the ad from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Northwest said it made the request in response to customer complaints, which referred to the ad as “scary” and “anti-McCain.” Clear Channel complied with the request on August 19, and removed the ads at the Denver International Airport on the night of the 20. There is no indication that United Airlines, which has a hub at the Denver airport, made any requests to have the UCS ad removed.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. The organization does not endorse either candidate, and has expressed optimism about the fact that both major party candidates for president have pledged to eliminate nuclear weaponry.
Aaron Huertas, a press secretary for global security issues at UCS, said in a phone interview with BuzzFlash that Northwest’s accusations of partisanship were off-base.
“That was somewhat ironic,” Huertas said. “It’s not anti-McCain. It’s not anti- or pro- one candidate or the other.”
Northwest is less able to cling to nonpartisanship than a 501c3 nonprofit such as UCS. According to the Federal Elections Commission, in recent years, the Northwest Airlines PAC gave $3,000 to McCain and nothing to Obama. Also during the same time period, the PAC gave thousands to other political action committees, who in turn gave $118,079 to McCain and $49,000 to Obama.
Though both Obama and McCain address proliferation in similar terms on their respective campaign Web sites, their language is vague. According to Huertas, the UCS ads are part of an effort to draw both candidates out on the issue:
“Part of the reason we’re doing this campaign is that we want them to flesh out their positions and tell us exactly what actions they would take as president to reduce the nuclear threat. We want them to get more specific.”
Huertas said his organization was merely hoping to “get the people going to the convention thinking about nuclear proliferation for at least a couple of seconds.”
The issue of nuclear weapons has moved slowly to the back burner over the last couple decades, but with the economy and the Iraq war dominating the political discourse this election year, the issue has moved almost entirely out of the spotlight.
Huertas said he thought the main reason politicians are not discussing nonproliferation is “the fact that we’re carrying over this Cold War mentality.”
With the brief war in Georgia last week, however, the Cold War is once again under the hot lights of the political stage. Huertas wrote in an e-mail follow-up that the recent conflict in Georgia “underscores the need for the next president to carefully manage the United States’ relationship with Russia, including making progress on reducing the nuclear threat.”
One of the very few differences in the two candidates’ statements regarding nuclear proliferation is the former Soviet Union. McCain’s site makes no mention of Russia, while Obama pledges to “work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair trigger alert; seek dramatic reductions in U.S. and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material; and set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles, so that the agreement is global.”
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