Sunday, February 15, 2004

Americans have gotten more cynical: The Living Room Candidate project contains a collection of old campaign commercials, ranging from 1952 to 2000. The commercials of '52 and '56 are especially interesting: I was struck by the Eisenhower 'Taxi Driver' commercial of '56 (the very first one in list of Republican ads of '56 if you click on the above link). Here is a rough transcript I made of some excerpts from the ad:

[a man and a dog slowly walk towards the camera]

Come on prince!

[the man leans over and pets the dog]

Come on, you little mutt!

[he stops and reclines against a lamp post]

[romantic music starts]

I've been drivin a taxi here in Washington for quite a few years. Every day, I pass this corner a dozen times and never
even notice it. But every night, when Prince takes me out for my evening walk, I always stop when I reach this particular spot and
look over there at that house.

[camera cuts over to a shot of the White House]

There you see the lighted windows. A neighbor of mine lives there; yep, Dwight D. Eisenhower. A man with the most important job in the
world today. What do you suppose he is thinkin about over there, right now, at this very minute? Maybe things thousands of miles away from here...

[camera cuts to a series of pictures: soldiers marching in a file, barbed wire, helicopters landing, battleships sailing, followed by a shots of mao tse-tung giving a speech]

Anywhere in the world, wherever some crisis is startin to threaten everybody's future -- Egypt, Formosa, East Berlin -- theres a dozen places where real trouble can break out -- thats why we all depend on Ike so much. He can stand up to Khruschev and those fellas... he's a big man. He's used to handling big problems.

[camera switches to pictures of factories: workers entering a building, glass smelting, furnaces burning, assembly lines at work]

Or maybe he's thinkin about the folks who work every day in factories and offices or drive taxis. Of course mine isn't one of the big jobs in the world, but its important to me. And I got a feelin its important to him. I think he knows all about people like me who work for a living. After all, he was born in a small town. His family was no richer n'mine. He never had no money given to him. Everythings hes had he had to work for. Hes a family man too. He knows the problems of raisin a family and trying to give them the things they need.

Yeah, he might be thinking about a lot of things...

[energetic music cuts in]

Or are we gonna to stay strong?

[camera shows tanks charging forward and planes taking off an aircraft carrier]

The way i see it, theres a problem that absolutely calls for a man with Ike's background as a military leader. He knows what it takes to give us the strength we must have to stay free.

[romantic music cuts in again]

[camera goes back to the man in the lamppost]

Yes, behind those lighted windows is the kind of man history only favors a nation with once in a long, long time. A man dedicated as few men ever are to high principles and human good. A man whose whole life has been given to his country's service; thats why tonight, while I'm thinking of him, I got a feeling hes thinking of me -- and my future, and my familys future.

[man turns to face the camera directly for the first time]

In times like these, so full of perils of peroblems, i'll be honest with you. I need him. Don't you?

[turns to the dog] Come on, Prince. Come on boy.

[walks out of view of the camera]

That last line about needing Ike is particularly difficult to stomach. Interesting how cynical we are now -- such a commercial would never be aired today -- and how naive we used to be.


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