Garfield's Political AdReview: First Bush ads pleasantly presidential

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The first official Bush-Cheney ads are on the air and, holy smokes, we want to vote for him. We want to work for him. We want to have his baby.

Hitherto we were personally prepared to elect A.B.B., including Al Sharpton, Al Franken, half of Al Jazeera or even Al Gore, but to the president's advertising team we've got to say: Well done.

This George W. Bush looks very presidential, very poised, very thoughtful and very determined to shepherd us through our current troubles.

"I know exactly where I want to lead this country. I know what we need to do to make the world more free and more peaceful. I know what we need to do to make sure every person has a chance at realizing the American dream. I know what we need to do to continue economic growth so people can find work, to raise the standards at schools so children can learn, to fulfill the promise to America's seniors. Americans are hard working, decent, generous people. I'm optimistic about America because I believe in the people of America."

Well, who's against that?

(Especially compared to what it could be. There is some slim chance the nasty stuff won't begin till after the Republican convention, but the smart money says that the politics of optimism go out the window in about five minutes, to be replaced by pictures of John Kerry looking like a dangerous '60s radical and voting to tax unborn children.)

Meanwhile, this initial barrage is quite reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's re-election ads in 1984, urging that we ignore lingering economic troubles, vote for leadership and "Stay the course." Indeed, this embattled incumbent's message is nearly identical: "Steady leadership in times of change."

It's all about reassurance, in the text and in the delivery. Here the president speaks comfortably, conversationally and confidently-i.e., not the way we're accustomed to seeing him. No Bushisms. No twisted syntax. No awkward chuckles. No readily identifiable lies.

Credit, too, for what the president doesn't say. There are but two allusions to Sept. 11th, both surprisingly circumspect. One ad refers to "A day of tragedy, a test for all Americans," and one to a challenge "like no other" in history-both illustrated by the same one-second glimpse of a smoldering World Trade Center facade. It would have been so easy to exploit the tragedy, say, by portraying Bush as the victims' anointed avenger. But these spots do no such vulgar thing.

Rather-on the economy, national security and the mantle of leadership-this advertising hits all the right notes. The only question is whether the electorate, having been given four years to measure reality against campaign rhetoric, is singing the same tune.

George W. Bush

Maverick Media

Arlington, Va.

3.5 stars

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