The campaign to defeat despair

The US health department is throwing away $300 million on a Don’t Worry Be Happy campaign due to run in the weeks leading up to (purely coincidentally) the election. Or to put it slightly less combatively:

The health department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to “defeat despair” about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.

The ad blitz, described in some budget documents as the “Covid-19 immediate surge public advertising and awareness campaign,” is expected to lean heavily on video interviews between administration officials and celebrities…

Because what is more urgent and pressing right now than interviews between Trump’s hacks and “celebrities”?

Senior administration officials have already recorded interviews with celebrities like actor Dennis Quaid and singer CeCe Winans, and the Health and Human Services Department also has pursued television host Dr. Mehmet Oz and musician Garth Brooks for roles in the campaign.

Worth every dime of the 300 MILLION dollars. Which, by the way, is vastly more than HHS or the CDC normally spends on campaigns to inform and advise. It’s not a normal or routine figure at all.

The public awareness campaign, which HHS is seeking to start airing before Election Day on Nov. 3, was largely conceived and organized by Michael Caputo, the health department’s top spokesperson who took medical leave last week and announced on Thursday that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Caputo, who has no medical or scientific background, claimed in a Facebook video on Sept. 13 that the campaign was “demanded of me by the president of the United States. Personally.”

Yes but that’s Donald Trump, so the answer should have been “Oh hell no.”

“The Democrats — and, by the way, their conjugal media and the leftist scientists that are working for the government — are dead set against it,” Caputo told his Facebook followers in the Sept. 13 video. “They cannot afford for us to have any good news before November because they’re already losing. … They’re going to come after me because I’m going to be putting $250 million worth of ads on the air.”

Conjugal???? What are you trying to say, little fella?

The campaign is indeed under investigation by Democrats, who have charged that the massive ad blitz is an attempt to boost Trump’s standing on Covid-19 before the election and have unsuccessfully called on HHS to halt the contract.

10 current and former health officials told POLITICO that they have concerns about the campaign’s scope, goals and even how it has been funded — by pulling money out of health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control that are in the midst of fighting the pandemic, rather than working with lawmakers to set up a brand-new advertising effort with congressional oversight, or drawing on substantial internal resources and expertise in running health-related public service campaigns.

It’s not how sick you are, it’s how cheerful you are about it.

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