Billy Mays for President
Billy Mays for President

Obama’s campaign purchased several primetime television slots on the major networks for a half hour broadcast.  Those in the Obama campaign have called this program his, “closing argument,” and critics have called it an “infomercial.”1


Obama hit all the high points with this program:

  • “The American Dream”
  • Eight years of failed policy
  • “Middle class”

He reiterated his campaign pitches:

  • Strengthening the economy
  • Green technologies
  • Tax cuts for 90% of Americans
  • Affordable health care
  • Affordable higher education

No political speech this year would be complete without your own “Joe the Plumber” story.

  • Rebecca’s husband who works with a torn ACL because his family cannot afford for him to take time off.
  • Larry and Juanita Stuart a couple who are still working at 72 even after taking out a reverse mortgage because their planned retirement cannot help with their medical costs.
  • A special needs schoolteacher working two jobs.
  • Melinda and Mark, who are third generation Ford factory workers who don’t know what to do now that she lost her job and he only has work every other week.


A long time ago I had an internship with the local cable access company.  I took a lot of courses in video editing, lighting, and camera work.  I even worked one of the floor cameras on a live broadcast once.  Some of the course I took involved planning out how to produce a television program.

The production costs on this program must have been astronomical.  Even if you didn’t care for the content, it was beautifully edited and scored.  During last night’s “Joe the Plumber” stories you could hear a low dreary soundtrack in the background.  When Obama was talking the music would swell as he built his arguments.

If this was an infomercial, its was best goddamn infomercial I’ve ever seen in my life.  We should all thank our lucky stars Billy Mays2 doesn’t have this kind a production crew.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that persuasive arguments could be broken down into three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos.3  Ethos is based on credibility, pathos on emotion, and logos on logic or reason.

As a piece of persuasive rhetoric4 that program had it all.  The endorsements from various public figures lent their ethos to Obama.  The “Joe the Plumber” pieces about American families certainly provided enough ethos.  And, Obama himself laid out his strategic vision for fixing the problems facing those same families.

Obama’s program reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin enjoyed listening to sermons. Franklin wrote in his autobiography about one such sermon from a Mr. Whitfield.

I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me, I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me asham’d of that, and determin’d me to give the silver; and he finish’d so admirably, that I empty’d my pocket wholly into the collector’s dish, gold and all.

I imagine Benjamin Franklin would have been willing to empty his pocket all over again for Obama.

Update: If you want to watch the entire broadcast (minus the live 3-4 minute segment at the end), here’s the video:

  1. Photo from MacResource forums.  If you own this picture, please let me know so I can attribute you. []
  2. Of the OxyClean fame. []
  3. Mom, Dad, that dual major in Philosophy and Rhetoric and Communications finally came in handy!!! []
  4. Rhetoric in and of itself is not bad – its just a means of communication. []

Obama vs McCain: Round 3
Obama vs McCain: Round 3

Obama was calm and succinct while McCain was impassioned and aggressive. 1 Impassioned and aggressive  are not bad qualities – but they are less ideal during a debate.  Ultimately, Obama came out slightly ahead in the debate because he held his own and didn’t make any big blunders (I love that video!).

How about those predictions, huh?

  • McCain came out swinging for the fences.  He was interrupted Obama and brought up specific grievances with Obama’s past and campaign.  Heck, McCain even interrupted and corrected the moderator!
  • McCain was clearly passionate about his positions.
  • McCain looked directly at Obama as he challenged and questioned him.
  • Obama had witty retorts handy for most of McCain’s challenges.  At least once he actually chuckled during McCain’s monologues.
  • Obama ignored many of McCain’s direct attacks, not making eye contact during most of these challenges.
  • Obama responded to attacks, but didn’t counter-attack.

Not surprising, given the latest headlines:

  • Obama compared McCain to Bush.  Shocking!
  • McCain brought up Bill Ayers, ACORN, and Lewis.  Shocking!

What I could not have predicted:

  • Joe the plumber.”  No one except foreign dictators has ever enjoyed as much mention during a presidential debate as Mr. Joe Wurzelbacher.
  • McCain said Palin’s baby has Autism.  He should know her newborn son has Down’s Syndrome.
  • Obama dumbed down his language.  Obama, you went to Harvard.  HARVARD.  Pronounce the goddamn G’s.  Don’t say,” workin’ ” say, “working.”
  • Obama wore an ugly tie.  There I said it.  It could have been my TV, but that was an ugly tie.
  • McCain’s eyes and tounge???  Palin was winking and McCain was blinking.  I can ignore the blinking, but why was he sticking out his tounge?
  • Obama and McCain are both lefties!  I didn’t know that.
  • Obama would be the one wearing a flag pin while McCain didn’t.
  • “Troops to Teachers.”  McCain wants to remove tests and qualifiying exams for former members of the armed forces who want to be teachers?  Um – why?
  • A man would name his newborn “Sarah McCain Palin.”  He put the name on the birth certificate without without telling his wife.

And, a very special thank you goes to Bob Schieffer.  Moderators are there to keep the candidates on topic.  If you can’t reign in the candidates, you have no business sitting between them.  I’m looking at you Tom Brokaw.

  1. Photo courtesy of DaveHogg.  Photo editing, all me! []