TIMOTHY NOAH SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
There's so much to work with in what Texas Gov. Rick Perry states explicitly that I hesitate to delve into any possible below-the-radar messages in his new TV spot. But take a look and ask yourself whether the Republican front-runner is flirting with birtherism:
We hear Obama's voice and see various near-apocalyptic scenes of urban devastation. Mournful music plays in the background. Depressing economic statistics flash across the screen and the word "zero" is repeated several times ("zero jobs," "President Zero," etc.). Then the screen goes black. We hear uplifting talk from Perry ("A great country requires a better direction"). We see horses fording a stream. (Heartland!) We see an American flag snapping smartly in the breeze. "AMERICA will discover" (pause--flashes of Perry's face now) "a new name in LEADERSHIP." Statue of Liberty, American flag again, Perry again, music swells. And then we see the the words: "An AMERICAN."
There's more, to be sure. After another pregnant pause we see the rest of that sentence: "who served for freedom," superimposed over a photo of Air Force Captain Perry. Then, "A PRESIDENT" (pause) who will lead a NATION." But I can't help thinking that the ad really ends during those moments when the words "An AMERICAN" hold the screen. It's all about contrast, right? President Zero versus "an AMERICAN." Isn't it about time we had an AMERICAN in the White House?
Maybe it isn't subliminal birtherism. Maybe it's the more mainstream, but no less hateful, depiction of Obama as the Other. But look who's thrown her support behind Perry: Orly Taitz, birther queen. Don't hold your breath for a Sister Souljah moment.
Update: My erstwhile Slate colleague Dave Weigel identifies the auteur of this TV spot as Lucas Baiano, "the Michael Bay of political video-making" and a former Pawlenty guy. He's quite funny about it.
Update: Over at FactCheck.org, Brooks Jackson points out that the ad's claim that the poverty rate is at "an all-time high" is false. It is merely the highest it's been since 1993. The poverty rate was 7.3 points higher in 1959.