Take a look at Rick Perry’s first national campaign spot:
Notice the more-than-casual resemblance to a major movie studio’s coming attraction for a summer blockbuster. As such, the spot is designed to whet your appetite for a well-scripted story. The interesting thing is that it isn’t the “Rick Perry Story.” There’s nothing about where he comes from, his being the nation’s longest serving governor or the number of jobs created in Texas under his stewardship. The only biographical fact about him is that he joined the armed forces as a young man instead of, say, taking up community organizing. So what’s the story we're being invited to watch?
You’d have to be under general anesthesia to miss it. The first half of the spot reminds you that Obama’s a real zero, a maker of empty promises, leading an administration of empty suits that’s delivering nothing to the American people (who are strangely absent from Obama’s America). Without quite saying it out loud, the second half insinuates that Obama's so bad at his job because there’s an empty space in his chest where there should be the beating heart of an American patriot. Perry belongs in the White House, on the other hand, not because there's anything very special about him, because he’s an American Everyman who knows in his bones what it means to be an American without having to read it off a teleprompter.
All president candidates wrap themselves in the flag occasionally. As long as there's plausible deniability if they're called to account, few are above leaving the impression that there's something a little unAmerican about their opponent. Yet this spot doesn't leave much room for denying that the Perry campaign means every disparaging word it's plainly saying about Obama. I can't recall seeing anything quite like it from a presidential candidate with a substantial chance of beating an incumbent president.