You have probably seen the Herman Cain campaign ad where chief of staff Mark Block testifies to his pride in working for the campaign and extolling the ways in which a Cain presidency will put the united back in the United States of America. The testimonial strangely ends with Block taking a drag on a cigarette. Shot outside an office building, it allegedly shows and honest account of a real American.

To whom is this ad supposed to appeal? The “smokers’ rights” crowd? In order to get their fix, smokers nowadays stand outside at parties, restaurants, and work. They form sub-communities amongst themselves. Are they somehow excluded from American unity?

At the end of the ad Cain displays a slightly mischievous grin, and he may as well add a wink for the audience. In effect he says, “Do you get it?” I’m not sure I do, but perhaps the ad will appeal to those who complain of creeping “nanny-statism.”

The ad humorously shows that Cain is serious in his desire to see America “lighten up” and learn to take a joke. The spot has the character of metaphor. Does such conceptual art indicate presidential character or complicate it? It is so strange I’m not sure what to say.

Now his campaign has released this “western” short film, which shows a man on a horse delivering yellow flowers to a young lady. He is met by a few boozing ruffians who make an issue of the color of his flowers. “What is he? Yeller?” On the frontier, such ridicule leads the manly man on the horse to defend himself with fists. The man asks, “Are you guys liberals?” So Cain wants the audience to recognize that color doesn’t matter, but that manliness does, and that liberals miss out on both points.

As the fight ensues the director yells cut, and then things get as “real” as the opening scene to a Brian De Palma flick . Apparently you can’t believe everything you see. However, what we see are extras, make up artists and other assistants mulling around a few directors chairs. It turns out that we weren’t watching a movie after all, but instead a campaign ad about the making of a movie. Sipping from cocktail in a goblet during the break, the actor who plays the man on the horse tells America (through the camera) that it needs to get real and that Herman Cain is the real deal himself. He doesn’t read lines off a teleprompter like an actor.

All of this is entertaining. The ad has several strange images like the lady carrying the chicken. It’s surreal.

But is it presidential?

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Articles by John Presnall

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