When and who did the last set of infomercials? Not since 1992, when independent billionaire Ross Perot self-financed a series of infomercials, have we seen this.
The ability for Obama to finance an infomercial of this sort, without the riches of Perot, is based on the record-breaking amount of money that has poured into his campaign.
Obama's infomercial starts with a scene of fields of wheat, reminiscent of the line "amber fields of grain," from America the Beautiful. But the focus of the half-hour is on Americans, and specifically, the stories of four different Americans or American families, and the issues they’re confronting.
What follows will be a partial transcript of the highlights of Obama's infomercial.
For the past 20 months, I've traveled the length of this country and Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives. Their stories are American stories, stories that reflect the state of our union. I'd like to introduce you to some of those people tonight.
I'll also lay out in specific detail what I'll do as president to restore the long-term health of our economy and our middle class, and how I'll make the decisions to get us there.
What struck me most about the stories you'll see tonight, is not just the challenges these Americans face, but also their resolve to change this country.
Story 1: a view of a gasoline pump being used, and the high price at the pump.
Obama: Rebecca Johnston is all about her family.
Johnston: Brian, me, Nathan, Marlie, Ethan, Gabriela, Tulula and Jake (the last two pets).
Johnston lives in North Kansas City, Missouri.
Obama: Ten years ago, she bought a house outside the city so she could send her children to good schools. Now, with rising costs, it's getting tight. Her husband Brian works at a tire retread plant and needs to stand all day.
Johnston: He has a torn ACL and miniscus that he walks around with every day. He was going to have the surgery in June, but we couldn't really afford for him to get the disability pay.
Obama: And so they put off the operation, to take care of other things.
Such as food, which is shown. Trying to make ends meet.
Johnston: OK, how much are we bringing in this week? How much is the car payment. When, roughly can we pay this bill.
Obama: All across the country, I've met families just like Rebecca's, getting their kids to school, meeting their mortgage payments, fighting for their families.
Johnston: It just keeps going up and up and up and I can remember a time when I didn't have to worry about this stuff.
At this point, they cut to an Obama speech, where he says:
We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, or by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job.
An economy that honors the dignity of work.
At this point in Obama's infomercial, he took a hard look at the financial crisis, a crisis brought forth by eight years of George W. Bush, and would be continued, many say, with a third term by John McCain, who has voted with Bush more than 90% of the time.
What happened in the financial markets was the final verdict on eight years of failed policies and we're now going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. A few weeks ago, we passed a financial rescue plan. It's a step in the right direction, and as president, I'll ensure that you, the taxpayers, are paid back first.
But we also need a rescue plan for the middle class, starting with what we can do right now, that will have an immediate effect. As president, here's what I'll do.
- Cut taxes for every working family making less than $200,000 a year.
- Give businesses a tax credit for every new employee that they hire right here in the U.S. and eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
- Help homeowners who are making to pay their mortgages by freezing foreclosures for 90 days
- And just like after 9/11, we'll provide low-cost loans to help small businesses pay their workers and keep their doors open.
None of that grows government; it grows the economy and keeps people on the job. This is what we can do right now, to restore fairness to the American economy and keeps people on the job.
And this is what is right about the Obama tax plan. It taxes the wealthy, who should be paying more. And in fact, nearly all the people, and particularly the middle class, fall into the bracket he gave.
And let's not forget: McCain will reduce taxes on the wealthy. Why would they need more money!? Fairness, yes!
Fade to a town hall meeting, where an elderly man is speaking.
The company I worked for went broke. Before they went down they used $19 million of the retirement, and when they closed up, I should have gotten about $1500 a month retirement. I only ended up with $379 a month.
Obama: You earned your pension. You earned it. It wasn't a gift. You gave up wages so that money could be set aside for your retirement. Time and time again what we're seeing is companies that owe their workers, retirements, pension, shedding those obligations. But when you make a commitment to workers at a company, those aren't idle promises. Those are promises that should have the force of law.
Elderly man: Thank you.
Obama then speaks about the fact that Americans don't want a handout or for government to solve it all. But they do want a job with a living wage (and let's not forget that word living) and retirement with dignity.
Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio said:
Think of this. Barack Obama is going to be a Democrat in the presidency who cuts taxes. But he's going to cut taxes for the people who really need a tax cut. He's going to cut taxes for the struggling families, and he's going to that while holding accountable companies that take advantage of tax breaks in order to send jobs offshore and to other countries.
Other governors spoke as well, Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas), noting that Obama has "Kansas roots," saying he has a plan (unlike McCain, who has been roundly criticized for his rather panicky moves during the financial crisis), and Deval Patrick (Mass.) who notes that big challenges need big solutions, a problem solver like Obama.
Story 2: A couple entering their silver years. Larry Stewart and his wife Juanita in Sardinia, Ohio.
Juanita: We've lived in this home for 10 years.
Larry: A lot of work on this house, I did it myself.
Juanita: We had our home paid for, so we just knew that retirement would be great.
Obama: But with her rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments, the medical bills have been rising.
Juanita: I take 12 different medications per day. When Larry was working, all of that was covered. When he retired, I did not have medical insurance, and each year it just got worse and worse and worse.
Obama: To meet their payments, they've had to take a loan on their house, and they're losing equity.
Juanita: Larry is retired a total of 10 years, but 5 of those years, he had to go back to work. You just wonder, where am I going from here?
This is where Obama brings in his longer-term ideas: health care, energy independence, lost jobs. Stop talking, and start doing, he said.
Obama's infomercial continued with him talking about clean energy, creating jobs, tax credits for fuel efficient cars, tapping natural gas reserves, clean coal technology, expanding domestic oil production --- and conservation, which is what is the best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Next: the obvious: get out of Iraq, and move our focus on Afghanistan, where the real terrorists are. After all, we don't need Obama to tell us how much money is being spent there, or do we?
Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google:
When I read his economic plan, and I saw the people endorsing it, and all the new ideas, Warren Buffett and others, I thought, this is the right plan for America.
Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia:
Barack has looked at the small business side of the American economy, and says look, that's where most innovation and entrepreneurship is, let's give them the rocket fuel to really accelerate, rather than giving tax cuts to the Exxon-Mobils or big oil companies that need not one ounce of help from government to be very, very successful.
Hear that, Joe? Barack is looking out for you, the small business owner.
Obama then said who he's worried about: not CEOs or the rich corpations, but the middle class:
I'm worried about the couple that's trying to figure out how they're going to retire. I'm worried about the family that's trying to figure out how they can save for their child's college education. I'm worried about the single mom that doesn't have health insurance. I'm worried about guy who's worked in a plant for 20 years and suddenly sees his job shipped overseas. That's who I'm worried about. That's who I'm going to be fighting for and thinking about every single day that I'm in the White House.
Story 3: A widow with two children and a mortgage. Juliana Sanchez, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Sanchez: I work at a school for at risk kids. At lot of the families here go through extreme financial hardships.
Obama: At the end of the school day, her work is only half done. She works a health care company, taking care of Shelley, a 7 year old with special needs.
Sanchez: Most of us that are educators, we all have second jobs. Financially the pressure is just to keep your head above water, so that you don't feel like you are drowning all the time. Health care, food, electric, gas, it takes out so much out of my paycheck. People buy a gallon of milk, and you're like going, OK is it a gallon or a half gallon. What can I afford? You feel like you can't breathe even though you need to breathe.
Fade to an Obama speech where he stresses real family values, working with your kids. And then Obama stressed what McCain can only dream of: a live in the non-elite.
While McCain tries to call Obama elite, how is that possible when he was brought up by a single white mother, struggling to make ends meet? And dying, as he says later, of breast cancer, suddenly.
Obama in a speech:
Now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to meet our moral obligation, to provide every child a world-class education. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.
He outlined his education plan, including a tax credit for their tuition if they work in their community for their country.
Health care was next up, with something people need to remember: a requirement for preventative care and pre-existing conditions, something McCain's plan lacks. After all, what good is insurance such as McCain's if you can't get it. And McCain's plan will also encourage employers to drop employee coverage.
Speaking of his mother, Obama said:
I know what it's like to see a loved one suffer, not just because they're sick, but because of a broken health care system. And it's wrong.
Speaking of family values, they showed Obama and his family, how he read Harry Potter to his daughter and how he calls them every night.
And something else different from McCain brought up by Obama's infomercial: while the GOP strives to divide America, Obama wants to unite it.
Therei s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America.
A series on other legislators, like Joe Biden and Claire McKaskill then spoke of how much change he's already made in his Senate time.
Story 4: Louisville, KY, a 3rd gen Ford employee. Mark Dowd and his wife Melinda.
Obama: Recently the plant cut back Mark's work to every other week, and they're struggling to make ends meet. In July, Melinda was laid off after 8 years on the job.
Mark: If the plant shut down in Louisville, it would just be devastating. I felt like we're all in the same boat. We've all got to pull together, and if we don't, we're gonna lose America as we've once known it.
Obama then spoke of his foreign policy.
As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to protect our country. As president, I'll rebuild our military to meet 21st century challenges. I'll renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and curb Russian aggression, and I'll refocus our efforts on finishing the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I'll also never forget that when I send our armed forces into battle, I'm sending sons and daughters and fathers and mothers.
Let's not forget that McCain doesn't even understand a computer. How can he understand 21st century conflicts?
John Adams, Brig. Gen. US Army (ret.):
As a retired General officer from the US Army, it makes a difference to me how a potential commander-in-chief thinks about war and peace. That's what we're looking for in a president, somebody that understands the stakes and has the courage and the judgment to approach them, rationally (let's not forget McCain's famous temper) and with a sense of duty to the Constitution and the people of the United States, and that's why I think he's going to be a good president.
I'm reminded every single day, that I am not a perfect man. I will not be a perfect president. But I can promise you this, I will always tell you what I think and where I stand; I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you when we disagree, and most importantly I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your democracy again.
And this is why Obama's change means something. Would you expect to hear this from John McCain? No. And even if you did, would you believe it? I would not.
And now, the unexpected part of Obama's infomercial: a live feed from Florida. Of course, for those on the West Coast or in the Central time zone, it won't be live ...
America, the time for change has come. And to all of you, and all of those who joined us from across the country, in 6 days we can choose an economy that rewards work, and creates jobs and fuels prosperity, starting with the middle class. In 6 days we can choose to invest in health care for our families, and education for our kids, and renewable energy for our future. In 6 days we can choose hope over fear. And unity over division. The promise of change over the power of the status quo. In 6 days we can come together as one nation, and one people and once more choose our better history.
That's what's at stake, that's what we're fighting for, for the small business owner in Denver to keep his doors open. For the hard-working couple in Cincinnati to retire in comfort, for the young student in Ft. Lauderdale to afford her tuition.
For men and women in every city and town across this nation, to achieve their American dream. And Florida, and America, in this last week, if you will knock on some doors for me, if you will make calls for me, if you go to BarackObama.com and find out where to vote, if you'll stand with me and fight by my side and cast your ballot for me, then I promise you, we will not just win Florida, we will win this election and together we will change this country and change the world. Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
And that was the end ... or was it ... just the beginning?