Dave BearThe headline in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing the Assembly Republicans’ effort to build awareness about lack of road and infrastructure improvements featuring a stuffed animal called “Dave the Bear” read: GOP’s ‘Dave the Bear’ shares name with burlesque dancer. Huh? The individual we are told in the article is a “popular” burlesque dancer based in Europe. How many Californians do you suppose have heard about this European dancer and will confuse him with a stuffed animal in California?

The issue the Republican’s raise is serious; the journalism is not. The Flash Report website labeled the article, Liberal Media’s Manufactured Nothing Story.

But, let’s not allow this Teddy-bear gimmick the Republicans’ dreamed up to gain attention completely off the hook, either.

The Republicans should have learned the lesson from Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who early in his term tried to criticize red-ink budgets with an aide dressed as a blood-sucking vampire or a vat of budget red ink. The staged events suffered ridicule and did little to advance the policy debate.

Schwarzenegger red inkThis is not to say that the Republicans don’t have an important argument to make. They do. The state’s economy and business job creation depends on improving the state’s roads and infrastructure.

The Republicans blame the Democrats for decades of inaction on roads that “has led to a $60 billion infrastructure maintenance backlog and unbearable traffic conditions in California’s major metropolitan areas.”

Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session to deal with the lack of resources dedicated to infrastructure. No solution has come forth because of the dispute over a demand for new taxes vs. better spending of current transportation dollars. The new plan put forward by Democrats contains $6 billion in new taxes. The Assembly Republican plan takes a different approach.

Understandably, it is hard to get through information clutter to make a point on something as dry as public policy. I guess there have been occasions when some over-the-top attempts on pure politics have scored (think of the Demon Sheep ad created on behalf of Carly Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign), but there seems something sad about using such an approach (with media help) to cheapen public policy debate.

We have come a long way from the Federalist Papers.