Andrew Ferguson on the suborbital apogee of the Huntsman campaign:
Covering political campaigns can be a dull, remorseless duty, but at least the reporters who gathered in Liberty State Park, New Jersey, on June 21 to see Jon Huntsman announce his presidential candidacy have this compensation: Someday they’ll be able to chuck their grandchildren under the chin and tell them, “Yes, kids, I was there when the Huntsman campaign peaked.”The setting for the announcement was meant to be highly inspiring. A small, flag-bedecked stage had been built at the tip of a vast lawn jutting out into the Hudson River. The skyline of lower Manhattan and, more symbolically, the Statue of Liberty rose just beyond, through a scrim of early morning haze. By my rough estimation, newsfolk outnumbered normal people, who in turn narrowly outnumbered the political consultants, low-level politicians, and other hangers-on that always attend the launch of a presidential campaign, when the breezes still carry the springtime scent of fresh, unspent money.
Among the campaign’s consultants was the adman Fred Davis, a veteran of various John McCain campaigns who most recently gained fame for the mysterious “demon sheep” ad he produced for the California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina last year. (The ad featured a pasture full of sheep and a guy in a sheep’s costume and was, of course, catnip to bored-stiff reporters but less appealing to voters, whose sensibilities haven’t yet evolved into postmodernism, even in California.) I see that the 2012 Political Reporter’s Stylebook requires that upon first reference Davis must be called “unconventional,” although “maverick” is allowed as a substitute under some circumstances. True to form, the scene Davis staged for Huntsman’s announcement was unconventional in the conventional manner.
The event had the feel of an unsubtle satire dreamed up by some snotty 1970s aging-hippie movie director—Robert Altman, say—to prove that political candidates are just pretty-boy airheads engaged in a show-biz sham. In addition to the lifted lamp of Lady Liberty and the overdone backdrop, there was the handsome candidate and his excellent hair, tossed Kennedily by a gentle wind off the river. There was the lovely wife wreathed in smiles, accompanied by a raft of offspring who looked as if Madame Tussaud’s “Brady Bunch” exhibit had sprung wondrously to life.
Large speakers played a boneless soundtrack of soft New Age rock, part Kenny G, part early 1980s porno. On a video screen across from the stage, solitary words shimmered in and out of focus against a western landscape: Vitality. Comfort. Home. Tough. Calm. (You’re getting sleepy, sleepy . . . )
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