President Barack Obama's 17-minute video, "The Road We've Traveled," gives us an idea of how he wants to frame the issues in the fall election.
The first thing you notice about the video is that the atmosphere is dark, wintry, minor key. You see but don't hear the election night crowd in Grant Park, and then the video switches to graphics about the economic meltdown that followed the financial crisis of 2008.
There are gloomy scenes throughout. Obama's economic advisers arrive in a bleak Chicago after a snowstorm. The president is shown in the Oval Office through a window at night.
The visuals are oddly antique for a president who promised hope and change. When narrator Tom Hanks talks of the "middle class," we see downscale neighborhoods with houses built in the 1910s or 1920s. When he talks about economic recovery, we see an early 1950s Ford coming off the assembly line.
Hanks strikes another historical note. "Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt has so much fallen on the shoulders of one president." Well, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan might disagree, but one gets the idea. If America is not standing tall, it's because Obama started off nearly 6 feet under.
We hear a lot about the burdens of office and the loneliness of presidential decision-making. The same point was made in 30- and 60-second ads run by Jimmy Carter's re-election campaign in 1980.
Those spots featured only Carter and the narrator speaking. The 17-minute video has time for testimony from Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and, briefly, Michelle Obama.
The resemblance to the Carter ads is ominous, seeing as Carter lost 51- 41 percent in November. Americans want to think well of their presidents, but sometimes they decide they've had enough.
Republicans and political reporters will find much to quibble with in "The Road We've Traveled." There are misstatements of facts, and issues are framed in ways that are arguably misleading. The Washington Post's fact checker has given the video three of a possible four Pinocchios for the Obamas' description of his mother's insurance situation in her final illness.
On issues, we don't hear the words "stimulus package"; there is just a brief reference to the otherwise unidentified Recovery Act. Much more is made of the GM and Chrysler bailouts, which Biden says -- some Pinocchios due here -- exacted sacrifices from the United Auto Workers.
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