Friday fun: "Mad Men" in the White House
September 16th, 2011
05:25 PM ET

Friday fun: "Mad Men" in the White House

Open any newspaper or magazine. Drive down any highway or listen to your radio. Turn on your T.V. or, these days, turn on your iPhone. What do you see? Advertisements.

In today’s world, thousands of advertisements bombard us on every street corner, in every office building and even from our own living room – and though there is no definitive number based on the individual’s daily routine, most guesses regarding individual exposure to ads fall between 3,000 and 5,000 ads… per day. Heck, there are even televisions shows about advertisements! Take “Mad Men” for instance.

And so, I introduce to you the ultimate salesman: the president of the United States of America.

Like a “Mad Man,” the president needs to convince his “intended client” (read: the American public) to invest, both emotionally and financially, in every “ad” (read: project). And how does he do this? Why, a sales pitch (read: speech) of course! But when you’re the POTUS, it takes a little more than a jingle or slogan to make your “clients” invest in the “ad.”

And so, without further ado, we present a comparison of three well-known presidential sales pitches: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The New Deal,” Lyndon B. Johnson’s “The Great Society,” and Barack H. Obama’s “The American Jobs Act.”

It’s all in the name

As any Mad Men fan will tell you, it’s all in the name. However, unlike FDR’s “The New Deal” and LBJ’s “The Great Society,” – titles that evoke a sense of change – Obama’s title for his sales pitch falls flat.

WINNER: FDR’s “The New Deal” is short and simple, and ultimately brought hope to an American public desperately in need of a new life.

What does the customer want?

FDR was under the idea that the American public wanted two things: work and security.

“What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security–these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead.”

LBJ firmly believed his people wanted to end poverty and racial injustice, to improve the education system, and perhaps most importantly, to reflect on their lives in an honorable way.

“The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in out time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what is adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.”

Barack Obama argues that the American people simply want the American dream that was promised to them.

“This past week, reporters have been asking, ‘What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?’

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don’t care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by — giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.”

WINNER: Though FDR and Obama both understood what their public needed, LBJ’s flourishing words seal the deal for us.

A good defense is a good offense

When you’re part of a political party, there’s an unfortunate, unwritten rule to demoralize the opposing party. FDR chose to make his attack a bit more sarcastic, but surprisingly, also called upon the GOP for help.

“Let it be from now on the task of our Party to break foolish traditions. We will break foolish traditions and leave it to the Republican leadership, far more skilled in that art, to break promises…”

“… Here and now I invite those nominal Republicans who find that their conscience cannot be squared with the groping and the failure of their party leaders to join hands with us.”

LBJ, on the other hand, chose to forgo a jab at the GOP altogether.

Similar to FDR, Barack Obama chose to attack the Republican party in his speech, as well as enlist the help of the right-wing party.

“Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations…”

“… This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

WINNER: Basing this decision solely on humor, we loved FDR’s teasing remarks.

The “greeting card” quote:

Every president is known for their speeches, and every speech has a few key components that will forever be remembered. FDR, for example, chose to speak about the promise of a new dawn.

“Out of every crisis, every tribulation, every disaster, mankind rises with some share of greater knowledge, of higher decency, of purer purpose.”

LBJ wanted to leave America with a feeling of hope too.

“For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.”

Barack Obama, however, left the American people with an entirely different type of promise.

“And everything in this bill will be paid for.”

WINNER: Though we love the wording and uplifting spirit of FDR and LBJ’s quotes, we have to side with Obama on his one… as long as he keeps his word!

The last chance to leave an impression:

FDR closed his speech by prostrating himself at the feet of the American public.

“On the farms, in the large metropolitan areas, in the smaller cities and in the villages, millions of our citizens cherish the hope that their old standards of living and of thought have not gone forever. Those millions cannot and shall not hope in vain.

I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people.”

LBJ ended his sales pitch by recalling an old, perhaps forgotten dream and reminding his public that they could have that dream again.

“There are those timid souls who say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will, your labor, your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.

Those who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country. They sought a new world. So I have come here today to your campus to say that you can make their vision our reality. So let us from this moment begin our work so that in the future men will look back and say: It was then, after a long and weary way, that man turned the exploits of his genius to the full enrichment of his life.”

Barack Obama enlisted the help of an old American president to remind the American citizenry of what they are capable of.

“President Kennedy once said, ‘Our problems are man-made –- therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.’

These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and let’s show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.”

WINNER: Maybe it’s because it applies to the here and now, but Obama’s words of “Let’s show the world once again” wakes up the American public from their tired, lethargic sleep and rejuvenates them to honor his words, regardless of their political beliefs.

Of course winners and losers are subjective.  This is simply my attempt at some Friday fun!  Hope you have a good weekend.


Topics: FDR • Friday fun • LBJ • President Obama

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Jay in NC

    Sorry Becky Perlow, you thinking that "FDR and Obama both understood what their public needed" took the fun out of my Friday.

    September 17, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • MTATL67

      The Great Depression, extremists – The Great Recession, extremists. No, they got/get what the public needs. The Constitution states it is Congress's job to regulate commerce which they are failing to do. So it's the GOP & fiscal terrorists members of Congress that do not get or just don't care.

      September 18, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Howard

      THE ULTIMATE IN HYPOCRISY ...
      Republicans are opposed to the lazy, free loading malcontents in America, who demand that others work to pay their way ... while they complain about those who have more than them. This shameful group, although considerable in number, are not the tea party ... they are the liberals, and democrats ... led by their leader, Barack Obama ... a man who publicly pushes for communism, while privately hanging out with Billionaires, like Buffet, and Soros ... and living like an extravagant capitalist.
      In the meantime, his equally hypocritical wife, Michelle, demands that we eat rabbit food, while she gorges herself with lobster, $400 bottles of wine ... and, has a full time live-in pastry chef ... all paid for by us hard working tax payers !!!

      September 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  2. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Doesn't take much does it? You have a sad life, Jay. I guess BUSH, REAGAN, NIXON and EISENHOWER did 'understood what their public needed' huh? WARS, WARS, and rumors of WARS! Even though he was RIGHT, and the great humanitarian that he was, I know LINCOLN didn't...they killed him trying to prove that point. Still trying to prove it right today...against OBAMA! Here you are taking it even a step further by literally, comparatively denouncing ROOSEVELT along with OBAMA! You've dismissed KENNEDY a while back!

    September 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm |