WaPo Lauds Obama Infomercial as 'Poetic and Practical, Spiritual and Sensible'

Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales offered his own endorsement of Obama for President with an oozy review of Obama’s half-hour infomercial, which he called "Obamavision." That certainly was supposed to carry more than one meaning, including a tribute to Obama’s visionary politics. It wasn’t hidden in tiny type on the home page like yesterday’s sleaze-Internet-cash story. It stood out in bold lettering: "An Appeal to the Masses | Poetic and practical, Obama's paid political broadcast was a montage of montages." Shales was more syrupy than that in the full text:

Somehow both poetic and practical, spiritual and sensible, the paid political broadcast, which aired on seven major cable and broadcast networks (on Univision, it was identified as "Historias Americanas"), was a montage of montages, a series of seamlessly blended segments interweaving the stories of embattled Americans with visions of their deliverer, Guess Who.

While there was some rhetoric about the horrid last eight years, Shales later admitted, "Most of the talk was conversational in that laid-back, not-to-worry, calmly passionate, defiantly hopeful Obaman way." Meanwhile, the Style-section front pager trashed the opposition. Obama was effective in being the anti-McCain, the polar opposite of Cranky Grandpa:

Although McCain was not seen during the half-hour, one could easily summon the contrasting image of the Republican while watching Obama. McCain has come across on television as relatively worried, whiny, fusty and falsely folksy. He brought bad news; he has come to epitomize and personify it. Obama brings you medication along with the list of symptoms; he has developed a great bedside, as well as fireside, manner. It was the easiest thing in the world, watching the skillfully edited hodgepodge put together by his campaign, to picture Obama as president. That's one thing the film was designed to do, especially for the doubters and those scared, "undecided" voters out there.

Shales was so hopelessly devoted to "Obamavision" that he started comparing Obama’s image-making to Reagan’s "Morning in America" ads, but Obama's ad was in no way positive about America's present condition. Shales even compared the Democratic convention to a....Biblical pageant?

The tone and texture recalled the "morning in America" campaign film made on behalf of Ronald Reagan, a work designed to give the audience a sense of security and satisfaction; things are going to be all right. Obama was narrator of his film, but also its star, appearing in excerpts from speeches delivered before tremendous crowds (including the finale to the Democratic convention, a nearly biblical pageant), sitting or standing in a flag-bedecked office that looked comfortable and White Housey, and in campaign footage out amongst the folks, the people, the faithful, the huddled masses.

So the Obama film was a little bit of Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments? Or maybe it's a Frank Capra movie about Washington remade by an idealist:

The half-hour was underscored with music in a kind of elegiac, Aaron Copland mode -- sorrow and stature. Obama seemed as heroic a figure as Henry Fonda's Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath," but with more of a Jimmy Stewart personality. He has come, the film said, to show us all the way, and if we don't know it by now, and after all those millions spent to tell us, it's our fault. ...Now it seemed to be turning into a Frank Capra movie; after all, "Grapes of Wrath" did not have a happy ending, but, according to last night's multicast -- in spectacular ObamaRama -- this movie will.

Spectacular ObamaRama? Shales did make an error in his review, mistaking Obama’s mom for Grandma in the overworked early-morning homework story: "For the umpty-umpth time, he told the story of how Granny woke his 8-year-old self up at 4:30 a.m. to go over homework and how, when he grumbled about it, she'd respond with, ‘Well, this is no picnic for me, either, buster.’" Shales didn’t suggest that this story is odd, considering Obama’s wandering mother left him for years at a time with the grandparents, which contrasts sharply with the task-master image.The only sour spot for Shales was "a weirdly retro reference at one point to curbing ‘Russian aggression.’" Doesn’t Obama know that liberals like Shales think it’s not "retro" to root for some Barney the Dinosaur foreign policy? Enemies, what enemies?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis