For the past few weeks, media analysts have wondered why wannabe presidential candidate Fred Thompson agreed to do a radio ad for LifeLock, an identity-theft prevention company founded by scam-meister Robert Maynard. But listening to the ad makes clear why Thompson and LifeLock tied the knot, if only for a five-week campaign that recently ended: they’re a match made in heaven. LifeLock gives Thompson a soapbox from which to air his “patriotism.” Thompson, in turn, gives LifeLock a brand name to attach to its relatively useless product.
The result of this symbiotic relationship? Sixty seconds of shameless propaganda for the Thompson campaign.Thompson identifies himself by name twice during the ad. Both times, he does so within two seconds of a phrase about America’s heroes, referring to our troops in Iraq.
So now we know what Thompson’s all about. Tancredo stands for immigration reform. Edwards stands for universal health care. Fred Thompson stands for…heroes?
While many disagree vehemently with Tancredo’s and Edwards’ positions, who out there—conservative or liberal—can be said to be against heroes? It’s like being against dolphins, or puppies, or ice cream. By sticking to rhetoric with universal appeal, Thompson seems to be currying favor with listeners across the political spectrum.
America’s heroes are certainly an easier sell than LifeLock. Customers pay LifeLock ten dollars a month to monitor their accounts for fraud. But people can flag their accounts themselves, as LifeLock creatively admits.
“Think of it this way,” reads Lifelock’s webpage. “All of us can change our own oil, but most of us have it done by specialists. We’d like to think that what we do is more complicated than changing oil, but you get the idea.”The ad’s patriotism is rooted entirely in Thompson’s boast that “LifeLock gives their million-dollar guarantee to protect the good names of our heroes and their families for free.” So LifeLock supports the troops by giving them a free service that should be free anyway, while affording Thompson a podium to preach about “protect[ing] the good names of our heroes.”
In light of the company’s dubious leadership, it seems the best way to “protect the good names of our heroes” is to keep them as far away from this company as possible. CEO Todd Davis recently fell victim to the practice himself.
Founder Robert Maynard (who recently stepped down as Chief Operating Officer but remains actively involved in the company) has been banned from the credit-repair industry for false advertising and deceptive practices. Worse yet, overwhelming evidence suggests that he stole his own father’s identity and racked up a six-figure debt.
According to the Phoenix New Times, Maynard dreamed up LifeLock while roosting in jail for failing to return a $16,000 loan. It doesn’t say much about Thompson’s judgment that he was willing to stand on a Maynard-sponsored soapbox just to get attention.But most troubling, perhaps, is the fact that Thompson was willing to sanction this poorly written, troop-pimping ad.
In the first half, he details a military operation: “An armored piercing shell rips through the cockpit. Shatters the pilot’s left arm,” Thompson growls like a Hollywood general. I’m sure that the pilot whose arm was torn off feels better about it now that he’s being used to sell some useless product. Maybe Thompson is trying to sound stately, or—dare I say it?—presidential, but it’s all too obvious that he’s exploiting his “American heroes” to promote his own image.
The unabashed exploitation of the troops continues in the ad’s second half, when LifeLock is actually mentioned. But even here Thompson continues to sling his political message: “While our heroes are protecting us, we have a duty to protect them. One company, LifeLock, is doing just that.” So, in essence, he equates the troops’ heroics in Iraq with LifeLock’s ripoff credit monitoring service.I guess that makes Robert Maynard an American hero, too.
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Thompson’s justification for endorsing LifeLock is nebulous at best. His spokesman, Mark Corallo asserts that it was part of Thompson’s contract as an ABC commentator. But Thompson doesn’t seem to have been forced to do that specific ad, and Corallo has claimed that Thompson didn’t research the company before agreeing to do it—which implies that he had the option not to.When your campaign is fueled by hype, any press is good press.
As long as Thompson continues to permeate the media and keep people talking, he’s still in the game. So he’ll take any access to the airwaves he can get.Even negative publicity that the ad generated has benefited Thompson and given momentum to his speculation-driven, FCC-skirting push for the presidency.
The unfavorable coverage has helped Thompson gain sympathy from some conservative bloggers, who believe Thompson is being targeted by liberals in the media. On Publius’ Forum, Warner Todd Huston complains about the media’s coverage of Thompson’s connection with LifeLock: “Yep, this one is one lame attempt to cast Senator Thompson in a bad light. And it is another example of the MSM looking to stick a pin in Thompson’s big poll ratings, it appears.”
A contributor to BlogsforFredThompson.com whines, “Well, you can be sure will we see the usual suspects huffing and puffing about this, as if Fred should spend all his days laboriously fact checking every single ABC advertiser to make sure that they don’t have any skeletons in their company’s closet.” (I think you know how we feel about that one.)
For now, Thompson can continue to leech off of shady companies in return for more airtime during which he can proselytize. If and when he declares his candidacy, however, the fun must end—the bubble of hype will begin to deflate, and people will start expecting him to talk about issues, not rattle on about heroes.
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