The Barack Obama campaign has released the full version of a film – or call it a political ad – that offers an insight into how his team is framing his presidency.
The film, titled The Road We’ve Travelled , can be considered a 17-minute long rebuttal, answering his critics and Republican presidential hopefuls, who, when they haven’t been cutting each other down in their bid to lead the GOP, have been attacking Mr. Obama and his failed presidency.
“Time after time we would see rewards for decisions he had made,” says the film’s narrator, actor Tom Hanks. “So when we consider this president then and now, let’s remember how far we’ve come and look forward to the work still to be done.”
The successes are the auto bailout, the controversial health-care reform, and the still-disputed $787-billion economic stimulus package passed by the U.S. Congress in 2009. The decision to send a Navy SEALs team on a mission that would end in the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden features prominently in the film.
The Road We’ve Travelled was released during a week when polls show Mr. Obama’s approval ratings taking a dive over rising gas prices, and there remains deep dissatisfaction among Americans about the country’s direction and Mr. Obama’s track record.
The film’s Thursday night release follows the release of a trailer over a week ago.
The film was directed by filmmaker David Guggenheim, who won an Academy Award for his climate change film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, and it is a reunion of the original cast – people like former White House chief of Staff and now-mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, as well as former White House senior adviser David Axelrod.
But there is also a smattering of Democratic party stardust with the ever-popular President Bill Clinton offering some of the strongest lines.
“He took the harder, and the more honourable path,” Mr. Clinton says in the film about Mr. Obama’s decision to target a site inside Pakistan where the al-Qaeda leader was thought to be staying. “When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself, ‘I hope that’s the call I would’ve made.’”
On the bailout of the Detroit auto industry, Mr. Clinton attacks those who opposed using public money: “If you closed all these car dealerships and you killed all these auto parts suppliers, people have no earthly idea what would have happened not only to the economy but to our self-image.”
The road travelled, as the film tries to illustrate, is from economic doom to recovery.
The film starts by focusing on the scale of the economic crisis faced by President-elect Obama, which, as the film explains, only emerges when he meets his economic team in Chicago ahead of his inauguration. By then, the U.S. economy has shed 3.5 million jobs already.
The film does not blame Mr. Obama’s predecessor – an argument most Americans are unlikely to accept now that the president has had four years to reverse the country’s economic situation – but the film does painstakingly try to frame the depth of the crisis in those early days.
“The six months surrounding January 2009 is the worst six months ever – that we ever had in the data. It was the biggest crash of household wealth that we ever had in the United States,” explains Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
“The financial sector – kind of the heart that pumps blood in to the economy – was frozen-up in cardiac arrest,” says former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel.
And to drive it home, Mr. Axelrod recalls adviser after adviser delivering bad news to the president-elect at the Chicago meeting: “All I was thinking at that moment was, ‘Could we get a recount?’”
Filmmaker David Guggenheim was ripped by CNN host Piers Morgan during an interview last week for a perceived lack of balance in his film. The filmmaker said he could find nothing negative to say about the Obama presidency – “the negative for me was that there were too many accomplishments,” Mr. Guggenheim said.
“Oh, come off it,” said Mr. Morgan. “You can’t say that with a straight face! Come on.”