Obama Infomercial: Some Transported, Some Nauseated

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In the … "round" office.
In the … "round" office. Photo: Getty Images

Of course Obama's prime-time infomercial was sappy, overstuffed with images of Americana, and pretty much devoid of anything new for people who’ve been paying attention to the campaign. But it's not trivial that Obama appeared nothing like the terrorist-friendly, paycheck-snatching secret socialist he’s being portrayed as in these closing days. We got so comfortable watching Obama calmly explain his solutions to downtrodden Americans that if he started reading Goodnight Moon, we would have passed out on the spot. Maybe that's exactly the feeling that those miraculously still-undecided voters were waiting for.

• Eve Fairbanks thinks it was "fabulous" to see Obama transformed into a "journalistic chronicler," presenting himself as "a listener, a gatherer of stories, a reporter, somebody who's interested in the pure, gritty texture of his interlocutors' lives." In contrast to all the celebrity talk, Obama was "totally and persuasively humble." The only disappointment was the lack of a Republican politician's endorsement. [Stump/New Republic]

• Don Frederick expects the ad to "have minimal effect on the final outcome of the 2008 presidential election." But if any undecided voters were watching, "the Democrat and his message makers certainly gave it their best shot to appeal to those open to conversion but lacking a comfort level with the prospect of a President Obama." [Top of the Ticket/LAT]

• Ben Smith writes that it's a cliché of Obama's campaign that "it's about you, not about me," but this infomercial really wasn't about Obama. He "isn't the protagonist, he's the narrator." [Politico]

• Jennifer Rubin complains that Obama "literally was the narrator. He didn’t tell us what he’s done and why we should think he really can solve these people’s problems." The "tableau of the dreary and drearier" was supposed to "show he 'gets it' but watching other people’s tales of woe didn’t really tell us all that much about him." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Tom Shales calls the infomercial "poetic and practical, spiritual and sensible," which was "designed not so much to sell America on Barack Obama as to communicate a sensibility." Like Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign film, it's supposed to convey a feeling to the audience of "security and satisfaction; things are going to be all right." Obama has "developed a great bedside, as well as fireside, manner" which contrasted with McCain even though McCain wasn't in the ad. [WP]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates marvels at Obama's "ruthless efficiency," comparing him to "Tom Brady circa 2004." [Atlantic]

• Mark Hemingway thinks the aesthetic was "a bit nauseating," and the content overplayed the idea that America is "one big breadline." [Corner/National Review]

• Alex Koppelman believes that the ad, though not "exciting," served the the same purpose as the Democratic National Convention, "humanizing" Obama and "telling some of his personal story." And the vignettes of struggling Americans "helped Obama work to convince voters that he is aware of their problems, and that he understands them." [War Room/Salon]

• Daniel Menaker says the ad was "moving and effective" and should "work the way it was supposed to — that is, get Obama across as a believable Chief Executive, show him as 100% American and a survivor of tough times, and dispel the remaining cloud of exoticism that still hovers around him." [HuffPo]

• Michelle Cottle wonders if women will appreciate "all of the personal tales of heartbreak and family sacrifice" more than men. [Plank/New Republic]

• Marc Ambinder calls the production values "A+," but also notes that the Obama campaign is taking the ad "very very seriously" and refuses to be teased about it. As for the content, he writes mysteriously, "I have my opinion about it..." [Atlantic]

• Jonathan Last is reminded of one of those "required assemblies from middle school: hectoring, tedious, and transparently silly." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Dan Kois is left thinking of Obama "as something of the perfect fiancé: handsome, polite, smart, willing to listen for hours while you complain about your job." [Plank/New Republic]

• Jim Rutenberg contends "the infomercial appeared to serve a safe, workmanlike purpose," which was to "[m]ake voters comfortable with the idea of him in the Oval Office while at the same time presenting him as a candidate who can connect with everyday, middle-class voters." [Caucus/NYT]

• John Nichols sums it all up as an "expression of empathy, a report from Barack Obama about what he has learned after spending the better part of two years with a hurting populace." [Beat/Nation]


Earlier
: Barack Obama Really Approved That Message

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.