Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Barack Obama shows us we could trade 30-second ads for 30-minute infomercials

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Originally published on on Thu, 10/30/2008 – 9:51am

So did you see all of the prime-time and late-night Barack Obama TV appearances? The only ones who were on TV more last night were the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of the World Series.

There was the 30-minute infomercial. The “Daily Show” appearance that happened via satellite. And there was the late-night dessert, Obama and President Bill Clinton live in Florida.

The infomercial did its job. Here’s a sample family, and here is how Obama can help. Very smooth.

The demographics felt a bit selected to fit logical political scenarios. An elderly couple from Ohio, a large family from Missouri came from key swing states. The single mother from New Mexico and the couple from Louisville, Kentucky were nicer surprises. The Kentucky couple had the nice subplot of a third-generation Ford worker.

Those of us who live in states that aren’t up for dispute sometimes feel left out in the cold. I really liked that one of the stories came from Kentucky, a state where I have relatives and a place Obama probably won’t win.

I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night a lot lately. The political race, financial accounts disaster, and other problems lead me into the world of infomercials these days. I will spare you what they were selling, but I do feel like I am in a rhythm of how infomercials should go. And by that standard, the Obama “show” was quite good.

The problem in a 30-minute time slot, given our attention span, is that we can lose focus quickly. Especially at 3 a.m., you need to have short, interesting segments to keep the viewer going. Placing a note at the bottom of the screen noting a live segment was coming up was a nice, well thought out gesture to keep us tuned in.

It’s easy to make fun of the infomercial concept. But the marketing of the president, or presidential candidates, is part of the process in our modern era. I was fascinating, and horrified at the same time when I learned that Ronald Reagan was actually very weak after the 1981 assassination attempt. The move by all parties was to portray Reagan as being strong, even after being shot. This perception helped give Reagan the benefit of the doubt later when he didn’t deserve it.

Obama also had a nice sense of closing, not just by ending with the live segment surrounded by thunderous applause, but also his closure before the live segment. For someone who writes and says beautiful words, this was perhaps the most beautiful verse he has said to date.

“I’m reminded every single day that I am not a perfect man. I will not be a perfect president. But I can promise you this. I will always tell you what I think, and where I stand. I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you when we disagree. And most importantly, I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own democracy again.”

There isn’t a year of my life so far that those words wouldn’t have meant something deep. But after eight years of George W. Bush and his callous approach to citizens for whom he disagreed, Obama’s words were like a canteen of water to someone in the desert.

John McCain wasn’t completely out of the picture last night. McCain was on “Larry King Live” on CNN. King is a good interviewer for McCain, since in a sea of old white men on television, King is older than most of them (75 on November 19), and of course, even older than McCain.

But by contrast to Obama’s well, presidential approach, we saw McCain at a press conference addressing the ever so slight delay of the remainder of Game 5 of the World Series. “No one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I’m president,” John McCain said.

Well, Obama isn’t president. And if there was an issue of crisis, I would expect the president, whomever that might be, to delay anything, even the World Series.

Like most of McCain’s attempts at humor, he comes across more as being bitter than funny. When even FOX tells us there was no delay in the start of the game, you know you’re on the wrong side of the argument. And if anything, FOX took the high road by sacrificing its pre-game show for the sake of the presidential race. (Did I just say FOX took the high road? Well, they did.)

McCain might want to watch the Obama interview with Jon Stewart. When you are dealing with a comedian, you want to be funny but not too funny. Stewart asked him about being biracial and not sure which way his “white side” should vote. Obama ran with the joke, grabbing his own arm as if to show an inner struggle. Obama even joked that we went to therapy over it.

Given the expense of buying $150,000 in clothes, hair, and makeup for a “hockey mom” and the fact that the campaign is paying for robocalls — in McCain’s home state of Arizona, perhaps McCain should have bought the prime time segments as well.

But that would require McCain being able to fill 30 minutes of reasons why he should be president. We all agree he could fill 30 minutes with allegations against Obama – could probably do 3 hours. But not even the most ardent McCain supporters think he could literally fill 30 minutes of positives about where he wants to take this country.

Perhaps we have reached a new standard in running for president – can you take a 30-minute segment and tell us why we, the voters, should vote for you to be president of the United States? Stop the insanity of the 30-second spot full of negative distorted attacks, where nothing of any substance can be explained.

For those who live in areas where they have been bombarded by ads, ask yourself whether you would trade a few 30-minute infomercials for sharply reducing the 30-second ads. Just about anyone with a normal level of sanity would make that trade in a heartbeat. We would learn more about a candidate other than quick, negative jabs. And watching TV during political season might be more fun again.


Written by democracysoup

October 30, 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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