In one brief shot, the no-longer-drowning boy, wrapped in a towel, sits beside Kashkari. The boy looks at the ground as he contemplates either Jerry Brown's gross malfeasance or reporting his agent to the appropriate authorities.
Whether you support Jerry Brown or not, or whether you like Kashkari or not, you may be wondering what he's alluding to when he accuses Brown of betraying children "to protect his donors." In the ad, those words are accompanied by a message on-screen, "Brown sides with unions over kids," lifted from an Orange County Register editorial in September.
The Sacramento Bee has fact-checked Kashkari's ad and explains the allusion:
Though it does not explicitly mention the case, the ad – beyond the shocking imagery – is a continuation of Kashkari’s criticism of Brown for appealing a court ruling that found California’s teacher dismissal rules unconstitutional.
In the case, Vergara v. California, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled California’s rules for teacher tenure and dismissal deprive students of their constitutional right to a quality education by keeping inferior teachers in classrooms.
Brown appealed in August but has said little publicly on the question. His lawyers argued that “changes of this magnitude, as a matter of law and policy, require appellate review.”
Kashkari’s claim that Brown “betrayed our kids to protect his donors” is based on heavy interest in the Vergara decision by the California Teachers Association, one of Brown’s biggest contributors.
But the motive ascribed to Brown’s appeal – that he did so “to protect his donors” – is unproven. (Full article)
The Bee goes on to say that CTA has a "longstanding relationship with Brown," that it contributed heavily to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and that its influence grew after the first incarnation of Gov. Brown signed legislation requiring school districts to collectively bargain with teachers. But the Bee also notes that the CTA has not run the table during Brown's various tenures in office, most notably in Brown's advocacy of charter schools as mayor of Oakland.
The view from the left, as you may imagine, has been less clinical. Wonkette joined many other observers in calling Kashkari's ad a "Hail Mary" and in a critique that's definitely not sarcastic, had this to say:
This ad is so very nuanced that we’re not entirely sure what the message is, but we think Kashkari is subtly suggesting JERRY BROWN IS DROWNING YOUR CHILDREN AND ONLY NEEL WILL RESCUE THEM BEFORE THEY DIE!!!!!!!! We think. Hard to say because of how subtle it is.
Salon titled its story: "GOP’s most desperate ad of 2014: Why this pathetic gem takes the prize!"
[Kashkari] managed to finish second in California’s jungle primary earlier this year, earning placement against Jerry Brown on the general election ballot. And there was never much of a chance that anyone could beat Brown this year. He’s been a relatively popular governor, as political popularity goes in these days of polarization and hatred, in a state that tends to chew up and spit out whichever fool assumes control. There’s no shame in losing to Jerry Brown by 20 points in 2014. Just accept it. ...
Or run what is unequivocally the year’s most desperate ad by a general election candidate, in which Kashkari suggests that Jerry Brown would let children drown. Replete with footage of a child drowning.
And from one Huffington Post blogger:
Kashkari is likely hoping that the jarring ad will win him some much-needed attention in the Golden State. But then again, when you’re using a drowning kid to make a point, maybe your campaign is too far underwater to be saved.
Of course, Kashkari does have his supporters. Columnist Thomas Elias wrote as late as yesterday in praise of Kashkari's dogged determination in the face of long odds. (He is, after all, a formerly homeless person.) And considering some of his other campaign tactics, he may yet go down as the greatest performance artist the U.S. Treasury Department has ever produced.
Besides, as one observer of the political scene said to me recently, Kashkari's ad seems to be specifically designed to get people to write blog posts about it.
Here's a selection of some of other California political ads that perhaps went a titch over the top:
Demon Sheep ...
Send Mar back to Mars ...
Obnoxious Meg Whitman avatar ...
Finally, Gov. Pete Wilson loses entire generation of Latinos for GOP ...