Bush repackages 'Morning in America'Put the words "integrated" and "solutions" together and the average eyeball not only glazes, but shellacks and polyurethanes itself.
Having watched most of last week's Republican partyfest, I'm struggling with a time warp/label disorder involving severe dislocation of generations and presidential administrations and even the political parties themselves.
The first night, which included a blind mountain climber reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a black female advocate for the homeless singing our national anthem, a Latino advocate, a black chorus, Colin Powell talking about the urgent need for schools, not prisons, and schoolchildren on stage with Laura Bush as she spoke about education, seemed to evoke the Democratic convention of 1992.
Bill Clinton was always big on celebrating our multiculti, Benetton- nation hues while having ecstatic black choruses entertain. That night, not only did he showcase people who had overcome disabilities, he also revealed his own family dysfunction before introducing Al Gore, who spoke about his young son's near-death experience and recovery. The Republicans had a mean, divisive convention that year, and the result was eight years of Clinton-Gore.
So maybe there's a strategy here. More than one pundit has pointed out that this election isn't about Dubya and Al, but rather Bill Clinton-George H.W. Bush redux, this time with the gloves off.
This round, the GOP has tried to out-Democrat the Dems. Shortly before the convention, the Bush campaign released new image ads, in contrast to the previous, paint-by- numbers ads produced by the Republican National Committee.
In the time-warp department: George W.'s selection of Dick Cheney. If that was choosing his father's Oldsmobile, these image ads go one better: They are Bush Sr.'s father's car. (A Ford, to be more Republican.)
Indeed, "It's morning again in America," at least according to Bush's ads. I wish I could get those brilliant Hal Riney spots from Reagan's re-election in 1984 because these seem to be a frame-by-frame imitation, right down to the use of white space.
Open on a working guy with a coffee cup, at the screen door of his suburban home. From there, the images move on: a Latino woman walking; an old white guy moving luggage into a trailer; a young white mom in a sunny kitchen with a baby; a pretty Asian woman in a classroom; some mixed-race kids in school; white-haired ladies gathered around a piano, laughing. There are also compelling images of a baby's hand and blocks. Perhaps these seem so familiar because that sweet, inclusive ad style was all the rage in the mid-'80s, pushing everything from cotton to NutraSweet.
Unlike the Reagan spots, however, these Bush ads lack Riney's distinctive staccato rasp. But we do get a reassuring female voice, the same kind of voice Philip Morris uses in its new ads to remind us what good guys they are. She talks about such rock-solid American values as rebuilding Social Security, making sure every child can read and giving everyone a chance at the American dream.
Ronald Reagan, of course, inspired intense nostalgia for pre-1960s, Jimmy Stewart-type values. He was also the ultimate crossover artist, who got blue-collar Dems to vote Republican.
There are worse things in politics than copping ideas from Reagan. Even though these Bush ads look like total retreads, they create a lump-in-the-throat effect. Still, they leave a void: If it's morning again in America, I'd like to hear from George, to quote a Macintosh ad, exactly why "1984 won't be like 1984."
Bush for President
Principals: Mark McKinnon, Stuart Stevens