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. []