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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Obama ready for prime time: half-hour infomercial airs tonight

Posted by James McPherson on October 29, 2008

Next day update: Reader Luis Lopez pointed out in the comments that you can already find the infomercial on YouTube. Thanks, Luis. For convenience, I’ll post the video here. Yesterday’s post continues immediately after the video.

Tonight Barack Obama will be on almost every television network that matters, talking to Americans for 30 minutes less than a week before the election. I suspect the message will be mostly positive and optimistic, with just enough policy ideas to demonstrate that he has some. I’d like to see him announce some cabinet appointments, but that would be viewed as too risky for someone with the lead he holds.

The New York Times announced this morning that, based on a one-minute preview “heavy with strings, flags, presidential imagery, and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim,” the address will be “a closing argument to the everyman.” (So much for John McCain’s ongoing “Joe the Plumber Tour.”)

Unless Obama decides to use the opportunity to announce that he and Joe Biden plan to leave their wives and marry one another, or that he and Osama bin Laden once smoked dope together while plotting the overthrow of the U.S., I can’t imagine that in this particular race–shaping up to be a possible landslide–the half hour will make much difference.

The commercial may reassure some prospective Obama voters (and may look to others as if he’s trying to run up the score), though because of rain the mostly white male audience tuning into Fox for the World Series won’t be there as a lead-in. And by the way, despite the myth that John McCain has repeated on the stump, Obama’s ad was never going to delay any World Series game.

I think the address is a good idea. Recognizing how little meaningful information can be shared via political ads, modern pseudo-debates, or interviews with newspeople who tend too often to be either cowed or too interested in furthering their own careers, I’ve been a proponent of political infomercials for some time. I even wrote letters recommending them to the Democratic National Committee and other groups before the 2004 election, and suggested them again via this blog in early June of this year.

Other presidential candidates have tried similar commercials in the past. Those candidates include losers Adlai Stevenson and Ross Perot (who did well for a third-party candidate), and the successful John F. Kennedy (also the last successful young presidential nominee, and the last to hold his Democratic Convention speech outdoors). If tonight’s program goes well, and offers information that voters can use, I suspect we’ll see more such infomercials in the future.

Regardless of the effect, Obama’s message will provide media scholars and political pundits with analytical fodder for years to come.

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6 Responses to “Obama ready for prime time: half-hour infomercial airs tonight”

  1. I’ll be on second shift at the newspaper, but I’m hopeful I can catch it on NPR online or something. In regards to the pair of fellow nabbed in Tennessee on conspiring to kill Obama, it’s disappointing that some still can’t allow a black man to begin speaking of positive things, unity for instance, without talks of assassinations. But then again, we’re only 40 years removed from segregation, and I’m sure some of the sons and daughters of racists in the mid-20th century have been engendered with the same sort of vitriol.

  2. James McPherson said

    I don’t envy you those late shifts, but tonight I’ll be at something else myself and plan to tape it. I’m guessing that it will be posted on the Obama Web site: http://www.barackobama.com/tv/.

    You offer a good reminder of how recent some of our scariest history has been. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Luis Lopez said

    The Obama infomercial is already on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtREqAmLsoA.

  4. Wow that was fast. Thanks for posting that.

  5. I didn’t have the chance to watch it on TV so thank you Luis for posting the LINK. I’m glad it was posted on YouTube quickly. The video is just so moving and inspiring. Talking about Optimism, Strength and Hope… Yes, WE CAN!

  6. James McPherson said

    Indeed. Thanks, Luis.

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