Tom Hanks narrates Obama campaign’s ‘documentary’

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

It's as slick as any commercial Hollywood production. And it's about as much a "documentary" as a campaign speech by Joe Biden.

President Barack Obama's re-election machine on Thursday released a two-minute trailer for what they have billed as a 17-minute documentary that makes the case that he deserves a second term.

From the giant American flag fluttering over a cheering crowd in the opening scene to the dramatic recounting of the Navy SEAL raid that took out Osama bin Laden to Tom Hanks' narration, "The Road We've Traveled" is undeniably a state-of-the-art pitch for the president. (Let's take a moment to miss Don LaFontaine, whose trademark gravelly "In A World" could have been the cherry on top).

It could be the first campaign video to feature two Academy Award winners: Hanks, and director Davis Guggenheim, who helmed Al Gore's Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth."

The trailer opens with a giant flag and cheers from a massive crowd turned out to hear Obama—who first appears with First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, walking away from the camera, toward a podium.

Hanks's narration begins: "How do we understand this president and his time in office? Do we look at the day's headlines? Or do we remember what we, as a country, have been through?" Words onscreen promise "a film about determination and progress," "told by those who saw it happen" as Obama made "tough decisions" to confront "historic challenges."

That turns out to mean loyal current and departed aides, like Biden, former senior economic policy adviser Austan Goolsbee, top re-election strategist David Axelrod, former White House chief of staff (and current Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emanuel, and former Wall Street overhaul champion (and current Democratic Senate candidate) Elizabeth Warren.

Goolsbee describes the 2008 financial meltdown that still weighs on the U.S. economy today as "an economic crisis beyond anything anybody had imagined." (Message: Everyone underestimated the problem. That's why the solutions haven't yielded prosperity). Biden defends Obama's landmark health care overhaul—which Republicans will hammer through Election Day—as a once-in-a-generation chance to expand access to coverage. Warren makes the case for the auto industry bailout (while footage shows lights being turn out on factory floors). And it falls to Biden, again, to highlight the bin Laden raid, and lay the credit for the risky operation at Obama's feet. "He's all alone. This is his decision. Nobody is standing there with him," Biden recounts somberly, as the viewer sees the worried faces of the president's national security team gathered in the Situation Room nerve center of the White House, and night-vision-style shots of airborne helicopters.

The Republican National Committee greeted the video with raised eyebrows.

"In 2008, he did a 30-minute infomercial to talk about what he would do as president, and it seems somewhat ironic that four years later he has to stretch a 17-minute video to say what he's done," spokesman Sean Spicer said. "As well done as it is, even the best Hollywood studio effects can't cover up the failed policies of the last three years."

While on the subject, Spicer took aim at Obama's hectic fundraising pace and Hollywood-style leisure activities, like playing golf.

"Americans understand that politicians are going to raise money, and that their presidents need downtime and time with their family," he stressed. But "for a guy who's trying to talk about the 99 percent, to be blatantly living the lifestyle not just of the 1 percent but the .1 percent looks contrary to everything that he's talking about."