As soon as you hear the familiar voice of Tom Hanks talking about the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Barack Obama's latest campaign ad, you know this spot is meant to be a heroic with an all-American tone. Clocking in at just 70 seconds, "Tough Decisions" is actually a teaser for 17-minute long documentary about Obama's presidency The Road We've Traveled, directed by Davis Guggenheim, the same guy who made An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman.
The teaser is almost a caricature of itself, so blatant in its attempt to mythologize an American presidency that's still in its first term. Guggenheim even uses the Ken Burns zoom effect (familiar to viewers of PBS and users of Apple's iPhoto alike) as it pans across photos of Obama looking both tough and handsome. Hanks aside, this thing has a pretty impressive cameo in the form of Bill Clinton, who intones soberly of the assault on Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, "When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself: I hope that's the call I would've made."
At least one commentator thinks Obama for America went way overboard with this one. Pointing to an interview the director gave to Piers Morgan, Salon's Glenn Greenwald riffed recently on how "Guggenheim explains that nothing critical can or should be said of our President other than the fact that he is so Great that his Greatness cannot be sufficiently conveyed in a single film." Greenwald describes Guggenheim's tone as "creepy … Leader worship."
Perhaps the most interesting part of the trailer is Tom Hanks. Of course the use of Hanks—the Greatest Generation's greatest fan—calls to mind the actor's role in Saving Private Ryan, in which he plays Capt. John H. Miller, as a classic American hero: moral, dutiful, tough. Miller's also vulnerable, but when it's time for battle, he charges in and never leaves a man behind. We're not trying to compare Barack Obama to a fictional war hero. That would be silly. But Obama's reelection team probably hopes you made that connection yourself.