Bush-Quayle radio spot fouls Illinois airwaves

MIKE ROYKO

November 02, 1992|By MIKE ROYKO

In addition to his many other character flaws, it now turns out that Gov. Bill Clinton is a thief.

This shocking information comes to us from -- of all people -- the Bush-Quayle Re-Election Committee.

It was revealed in a commercial that has been running on Illinois radio stations. In it, a doomsday-voice announcer says that Clinton has been "stealing jobs" from Illinois.

And they present an actual case of job theft: "Gov. Clinton stole jobs from workers at Acme Frame Products. . . . Acme Frame Products closed down, fired its workers, and moved to Arkansas."

However, the commercial doesn't explain precisely how Clinton went about "stealing" these Illinois jobs.

Did he come sneaking into Illinois late one night, blow the lock on the Acme Frame factory, load all the machinery onto his pickup truck, and highball back to Arkansas with his loot?

Or maybe he put on a ski mask, walked into the Acme president's office, whipped out a pistol, and said: "Your factory or your life."

But it wasn't quite that dramatic. It wouldn't be worth 20 seconds on one of the true-crime TV shows.

This might come as a surprise to the Bush-Quayle campaign, but governors are constantly trying to steal jobs from other states. Any governor who doesn't try isn't doing his job.

The usual procedure is to have a state agency offer a deal to some business in another state: tax breaks, a reliable work force, maybe a cut-rate deal on land.

Some states use scare tactics. Last year, Wisconsin ran advertising in Illinois newspapers showing a dark alley with a homicide chalk drawing on the pavement. It urged businesses to flee scary Chicago and relocate in carefree Wisconsin.

Not only do states steal jobs from other states, but suburbs steal jobs from cities, suburbs steal from other suburbs, rural areas steal from cities and suburbs, and countries steal from other countries.

Or hasn't the Bush-Quayle team heard about its deal with Mexico that will result in countless jobs moving from here to there?

Any governor who manages to steal some jobs usually calls a news conference and brags about it.

So when the Bush-Quayle campaign calls Clinton a thief, it is giving him credit for doing his job the way it is supposed to be done.

If they had wanted to be critical, they might have said: "Gov. Clinton doesn't snatch jobs from other states. Doesn't he care if the people of Arkansas work?"

And in this case, that might have been more accurate, since it appears that Clinton didn't have much of anything to do with Acme Frame's moving from Illinois to Arkansas.

The dull facts are that Acme was a subsidiary of American Greetings Corp., the country's biggest greeting card maker. And American Greetings already had a much bigger operation in Arkansas.

So when its frame business outgrew its Chicago plant, the company had to decide whether to stay here and spend millions to build a bigger plant or save money by moving to Arkansas, where the company had a suitable building.

The dollar-and-cents answer was to move, which it did. More than 300 Chicagoans lost their jobs. But far more than that have been laid off when other companies moved to Chicago suburbs.

When told of the political commercial, an Acme official said: "What? Nobody talked to us about it. If they had, we would have told them that Clinton had nothing to do with our move. It was a decision made by the company."

But that wouldn't have made for as cute a radio commercial. Actually, if someone wanted to be critical of the job move, Clinton shouldn't be the target.

The governor of Illinois at that time was Jim Thompson, a staunch Bush-Quayle supporter.

When Acme decided to move, it notified his office. But there is no record of Thompson's doing anything to prevent the alleged heist.

So one could do a commercial saying: "Why didn't a Republican governor, who supports Bush-Quayle, protect Illinois from a thief who would steal our jobs? Was our Republican governor sleeping during the burglary? Do we want this great nation led by the kind of people who don't even qualify to be night watchmen?"

True, that would be unfair to Thompson, but in political advertising, fairness is a priority that ranks only above finding an announcer who doesn't stutter.

With only a few days left before the election, who knows what other infamous crimes the Bush-Quayle campaign might pin on Clinton?

How about something like this: "Gov. Clinton eats babies. Do you want somebody as president who would eat those sweet little defenseless things?"

Of course, they could explain later: "We were talking about Brussels sprouts, which are sort of little baby cabbages. And even a baby cabbage has a mommy and daddy cabbage, right?"

Yes, and some of the little baby cabbages even grow up to become writers of political commercials.

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