Commentary

Morning Again And Again In America

After his unfortunate robo-appearance at the last Republican debate, candidate Marco Rubio owned up to a poor showing and pledged to his supporters that such mistakes would never happen again.

While it was certainly refreshing to hear a politician admit to his shortcomings, his statement also served as a lesson in what a candidate should never promise. Within the 24/7 pressure-cooker atmosphere and last-minute demands of a presidential campaign, some glitches are inevitable. Who could possibly control for every variable?

Still, you’d think that when cribbing from one of the most revered political ads of all time, and piggybacking on the Reagan legacy, you’d be pretty careful about eyeballing your own version of the “Morning Again in America” commercial for mistakes, pre-airing.

There’s really no excuse for releasing one that opens on a shot of the Vancouver skyline and a tugboat in the harbor flying the Canadian flag. That’s a major embarrassment.

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Lately, a whole subgenre of “gotcha” political ad-watching has developed, with online publications gleefully breaking the beyond-belief gaffes almost as soon as the spots are released. A flurry of news coverage usually ensues.

This was the case when it was instantaneously discovered that a now-pulled Ted Cruz commercial featured a soft-porn actress named Amy Lindsay in a one-line role. She played a member of a faux therapy group devoted to getting over its betrayal by Marco Rubio on the subject of immigration reform.

The cold, high-concept bit was somewhat hard to warm up to, anyway. But despite Cruz’s pulling it immediately, the story had legs for days, mostly because no media person can resist making the embarrassing linkage between any political candidate and such movie titles as “Kinky Sex Club” and “Radio Erotica.”

(All of Lindsay’s work, including “Sex Sent me to the ER,”  a TV show, are plainly listed on her  public IMDb page, by the way. She’s not hiding anything.)  

In her subsequent tornado of TV appearances, the now-blonder Lindsay declared herself a single, educated, middle-class conservative Christian, just pursuing her stagecraft to make a living.

Given all the you-can’t-make-this-up smarmy hypocrisy involved, a compassionate (Christian) response from the Cruz team, welcoming Lindsay as a possible Cruz voter and a free-market warrior, would have been far cannier than shaming and shunning the woman and shutting down the spot.

But enough about Ted, that son of Cuban immigrants whose policies are firmly anti-immigration.

Let’s get back to Marco: the son of Cuban immigrants who has allegedly waffled a bit on the issue.

He can’t blame Canada for the Vancouver skyline flip — but as it turns out, that geographical screw-up is the least of this anemic spot’s problems.

The original “Morning Again in America” commercial, created for President Ronald Reagan’s reelection in 1984, listed the solid progress made under his first term. Then, with the deep, resonant, goose-bumps-inducing, slightly Reaganesque voiceover of Hal Riney, famously asked: “Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

That meant returning to Jimmy Carter-based malaise: gas lines and high inflation and Iranian hostages, which brought out visceral chills at the time.

The point was that the spot never showed Reagan until the end. Instead, the spot sold America, with its big-city harbors and farms, weddings, new homes and lucky children. Also progress and hope, and a new day in a way that was not at all cloying.

It was such a deft production by the Tuesday Team — a famed group of big-agency ad people who showed the political consultants how to get it done — that it exists now up on advertising’s Mount Olympus, along with that other spot from the same year, Apple’s “1984.”

As for this low-watt reproduction, my question is: “Why go back to an ad that is older than many voters and is revered — as is Reagan’s memory by all the current Republican presidential contenders — only to replicate it cheaply and carelessly, and riff on it in a deadly negative way that causes cognitive dissonance?”

If the Dems ever tried that, the other side would be screaming “Desecration!”

Rubio’s version attempts to recreate the original, frame-for-frame — thus the use of the cheap stock footage of Vancouver instead of the New York harbor shot.

Except, after the voiceover guy, (who sounds like Reagan, points for that) says “It’s morning again in America,”  he plunges the narrative into joblessness, crushing debt and people paying more in taxes than “for food, clothing, and housing combined,” all “thanks to the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

The voiceover then adds the counter-counter-intuitive: “This afternoon, almost 6,000 men and women will be married, and they’ll look forward, with worry, to the future.”

The last line is both sub-literate and almost self-canceling: “Why would we ever want four more years again of that?”

This version of “It’s Morning Again” is a “disaster,” as Trump might put it. The Donald’s been saying the exact same things about our loss of values and identity since Day One, with his slogan “Make America Great Again,” and latest book, “Crippled America.”

The irony is that a worthy successor to “Morning Again in America” has already been released — one that engenders similar smiles and positive feelings. That was Bernie Sanders’ spot using Simon and Garfunkel’s song “America.”

Plus, wasn’t Rubio the one who claimed to be the nice guy, who was not going to go negative?

Despite the promises, the Florida senator should have learned something from his last debate: He tends to get into major trouble when he recycles.

12 comments about "Morning Again And Again In America".
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  1. Dean Harris from Silvermine Marketing, February 18, 2016 at 1:47 p.m.

    It's morning again in Canada. Do these people have an ad agency? A real one? Ot is this all pretend just like much of the Republican rhetoric? 

  2. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., February 18, 2016 at 1:50 p.m.

    Excellent article, Barbara. The tone of that spot could be recruitment for ISIS. Who knew being us sucked so much?

     

    What hateful, sloppy, incoherent work. I suspect Riney is spinning 600 RPM right now.

  3. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, February 18, 2016 at 2:30 p.m.

    This election cycle will be studied for many years to come. Bernie Sanders' campaign is by far the most consistent, stable, and honest.  The fact that the oldest candidate in the race connects so well with young people should tell us something about the power of authenticity. Donald J. Trump's success should tell us something about how easily the media and many voters are to manipulate with flash and no substance.

  4. AC Winters from ACWintersEsq, February 18, 2016 at 2:32 p.m.

    Boy you really nailed this one, Barbara. I confess that I haven't yet seen the new Rubio ad, nor have I rewatched the original Morning in America commercial again. But everything that you're saying about the clumsy comparisons and sloppy recreations are on point. The Republicans seem to keep confusing North America for America, don't they? Well I guess since Donald Trump is thinking about suing to determine if Canadian-born Ted Cruz is Constitutionally entitled to run for President (and Cruz had dual citizenship till about 5 minutes ago), I guess I can understand the candidates contusion. Plus you have all the saner Americans who are threatening to move to Canada if Trump, Cruz, Rubio or the like are elected President here in the good old morning in America. So you know, Vancouver, Schmancouver. 

  5. scott goodson from strawberryfrog , February 18, 2016 at 3:51 p.m.

    Stupid and ludicrous to shoot a TV commercial about morning in America in Canada. Why? Perhaps SAG might know? 

  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, February 18, 2016 at 4:18 p.m.

    Scott-- all stock footage.

  7. Ruth Thomas from Second helping, February 18, 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    If any of the GOP move into the White House it will be Mourning in America...this entire roster shows the death of civility and forward thinking....Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Bush, Carson or the other guy.....if they become POTUS I will bring out the black bunting!

  8. Michael Deane from Modern Times Film Company, February 18, 2016 at 5:23 p.m.

    I love it.  Rubio strikes me as clueless with his handlers badgering him t committ answers to memory only to have nothing to draw upon when the subject changes even slightly. I'm guessing his media handlers looked at political advertising and decided to clone the Riney piece without fully understanding why it worked.  You should do a piece on the scandals of political advertising where most media consultants make money on the media buy and look to save money on the creative and its execution.  Here is a perfect example: a plagiarized concept chcok full of bad stock footage. Amateurs.

  9. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, February 18, 2016 at 7:51 p.m.

    The benefits of having the pick of the litter drop considerably when the entire litter is sub-standard.

    On a related note; ... I'm old enough to remember when "Someday you may grow up to run for President" was a compliment rather than an insult. 

  10. John Grono from GAP Research, February 20, 2016 at 7:11 p.m.

    If only Donald Trump had already built his wall - but on the Canadian border - then maybe this could have all been avoided!

  11. Alan Wasserstrom from None, February 22, 2016 at 3:38 p.m.

    Nailed Rubio as what he is;a young,intellectually  candidate not fit to be president. Not surprisingthat his ads relect that. The departed Chrstie as a former prosecutor knew from the get go that this guy was a script reading robot.
    What more is there to say but what your article says linking the candidate and his ads. To me Reagan he ain'tjust as Dan Quayle(sp?) was no Kennedy.

  12. Jim English from The Met Museum, February 23, 2016 at 11:15 a.m.

    As you commented "Morning" when it originally aired, "In the end he's [Reagan] just framed in a portrait like the pater familias who's going to preside over this." Marco Rubio is no pater familias and no Ronald Reagan.

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