As an infomercial junkie, I gazed in particular wide wonder at the $4 million (!) advertising buy last night featuring our probable next president - and not just because I couldn’t get my head around the idea that one antidote to our broken political system was to spend more money than ever television ads.
I truly consider myself a student of the form, and at times, considering his thin resume, I’ve considered Barack Obama to be little more than the next great televangelist or Ginsu knife salesman.
In March 2007, when Obama was still just a baby candidate, I wrote this (item No.9):
“Being a great speaker is also an overrated skill. Judgement and policy skill are far more important. We’re not electing a televangelist. In fact, if great oratory were the overriding quality to look for in a president, we’d elect Tony Robbins or Kevin Trudeau (or better yet, Joel Osteen). The value of being a skilled speaker should never override the value of what it is someone is saying.”
So I’ve listened very hard to the content of Obama’s rhetoric throughout this campaign - truly to my detriment, because apparently you’re not supposed to do that as it makes you a spoilsport.
Nonetheless, I watched and listened very closely last night to Obama’s “big gamble,” which struck me as hardly a gamble at all. I mean, c’mon! Where was the risk? That somehow David Axelrod would produce a video accidentally including a stray frame of Bill Ayers in it?
Anyway, let’s take a look at it in the inimitable style of the Infomercial Reviews we feature (or used to, submissions welcome!) on the Beachwood Reporter.
What It Is: A presidential candidate who promises to change the world.
Cost: Your cynicism. Or your innocence.
Sets: A wood-paneled fake Oval Office; a gas station in North Kansas City, Missouri; forum with pensioner who got the shaft; a factory; a kitchen table; a home in Sardinia, Ohio; a family dinner in Albuquerque; a school for at-risk kids; a teacher training classroom; a grocery store aisle; a Louisville playground and restaurant.
Costumes: Blue suits from Hartmarx for the host; working-class clothes for the, um, subjects.
Groaner 1: Opening with amber waves of grain.
Groaner 2: “Rebecca Johnston is all about her family.”
False Promise: “A few weeks ago, we passed a financial rescue plan. It’s a step in the right direction, and as president I’ll make sure that you, the taxpayers, are paid back first.”
Does He Really Mean That? “Time and time again, what we’re seeing is companies who owe their workers retirements, pensions, shedding those obligations. When you make a commitment to workers at a company, those aren’t idle promises. Those are promises that should have the force of law.”
Is he proposing that, then?
Groaner 3: From Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: “I don’t know if it’s that common-sense, Midwestern way of getting things done, but Barack Obama has Kansas roots . . . “
From the Washington Post: “Obama’s grandparents left Kansas while Obama’s mother was still young, making stops in Texas, Seattle and elsewhere before landing in Hawaii, where Obama was born.”
Funny how no Chicago political figures show up in the video.
Music: Cloying, stringy.
Groaner 4: From Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick: “Barack Obama is a problem-solver who thinks big.”
In fact, Obama is known for his cautious thinking and moderate proposals.
Stereotype Alert: Larry Stewart is a retired African American who used to work on the railroad and has since had to un-retire and take a job at Wal-Mart. He plays the blues guitar.
Too Good To Be True: “For my energy plan, my economic plan, and the other proposals you’ll hear tonight, I’ve offered spending cuts above and beyond their cost.”
From AP: “Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial Wednesday night about the costs of his programs and the crushing budget pressures he would face in office.”
Groaner 5: “My mother, she said to herself, My son, he’s an American, and he needs to understand what that means.”
Wildly Exaggerated Claim: “Here’s a person who as a state legislator was a clear leader in Springfield.”
Colleagues there consistently describe him as aloof and unengaged there until it was time to snuggle up to Machine hack Emil Jones and set himself up for higher office.
False Humility: Immediately following Bill Richardson talking about what a special man Obama is, Obama assures us that “I am not a perfect man.”
Historical Inaccuracy: “I will always tell you what I think and where I stand.”
Unless you ask me about Tony Rezko or campaign finance reform.
Evaluation: A+. Nobody cares about facts and there’s nobody else to vote for. Undecided voters won’t be put off by this, so it’s an automatic win; some voters, like those who loved Titanic and Jerry Maguire, were likely left in tears. Plus, high production values. But he’s no Kevin Trudeau.