Rick Perry's Campaign Video Is All Patriotism, Zero Policy Substance

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign Thursday, shouldering his way into a full-to-bursting Republican field in spite of his embarrassing failure in the 2012 primaries. Notwithstanding that somewhat disastrous showing in his previous round of presidential debates, the former Texas governor is spiritedly back for round two. His new campaign for the 2016 Republican nomination will be officially launched outside Dallas, in a speech at 11:30am. But that event was preceded by Rick Perry's campaign video, released online early Thursday, replete with affecting music, dramatic visuals and one-word mottoes.

References to the American Dream, a mandatory feature of any campaign video worth its salt (almost always used in reference to the dream’s failure and the given candidate’s singular ability to resuscitate it), kicked off early. “If we’re gonna revive this American Dream again,” Perry says in a voice-over at the start of the video, as the White House magically emerges from fluffy white clouds, “we need a president who provides leadership that transcends the petty partisanship that we’ve seen in the last few years.” Flash to Perry, in his snazzy new glasses. “Someone that’s been tested. We need a president who tells the American people the truth.”

On that last word, the montage (of American cities, suburbs and Perry) fades to black, to be replaced by the word “TRUTH.” Contemplative, hopeful music begins. Vague policy statements are made. “We have the power to make our country new again,” Perry says — continuing perhaps, on the New World, American Dream theme. With shots of the candidate taking national security into his own hands and patrolling the Mexican border, Perry references foreign policy (“weakness abroad”), economics (America’s “slow recovery”), border control, and taxes.

With scenes of Perry meeting his constituents — smiles, handshakes all-round — he places particular emphasis on his ability to bridge America’s partisan divide, and points to his record during his 14-year tenure as governor of Texas. In a slightly foreboding flourish, Perry intones, “We must do right, and risk the consequences,” as vintage footage shows a U.S. air force plane taking off. A blinding flash of yellow later, and a “Perry for President” symbol emerges, Phoenix-like, from the patriotic fluttering of an American flag.

Much of Perry’s video — his focus on bipartisanship and his own political legacy, his denunciation of the state of America, and, indeed, the video’s aesthetic — brings to mind another recent campaign video: that of Republican former New York governor George Pataki. Both men tout their potential straddling of the country’s Red/Blue divide, and both push the idea of taking back U.S. politics as a unified America.

What sets Perry’s video apart, perhaps, is the frenetic pace of the editing — scenes flicker by at almost maddening speed — which contrasts nicely with the candidate’s steady Texas drawl. Like most campaign videos, style was far more important than substance: from just watching this video, very little can be gleaned about Perry’s specific policies, or even his previous record. But swelling, emotional music and archetypal American imagery can only get you so far.

In a Republican primary race which is shaping up to be the most crowded in memory, GOP hopefuls are going to have to start distinguishing themselves — and soon. How Perry plans to do that remains unclear.

Images: rickperry.org (3)