It’s the perpetual cry of the PBS pledge drive. Someone yaks at you for a few minutes, and then the station cuts to an image of a beautiful commemorative plate that can be yours if you Just Call Now!
That’s basically President Obama’s speechmaking style these days. Forget the elevated rhetoric and poetry. Elevated rhetoric and poetry are all very well, but if you throw too many metaphors around, people became nervous and flustered and David Wu shows up at your event in a tiger suit, thinking that this is what the occasion requires.
Starting Thursday night in his address to Congress and continuing in Richmond on Friday, Obama has turned over a new leaf: the speech as Pledge Drive. Call now! Act right away! Supplies are running out!
But it’s not just calling any more. President Obama understands that there are other forms of technology out there, and he is not afraid to use them. “I want you to call! I want you to e-mail! I want you to Tweet . . . Facebook . . . send a carrier pigeon!”
If anyone actually sends a carrier pigeon to his congressperson (speaking of which, did anyone send Mitch McConnell a weasel?) I will go to a safe, public location, clasp you warmly by the hand and call you brother. I hear Mike Tyson trains pigeons. Perhaps he could be induced to do something.
“Eventually,” President Obama told a gathering in Richmond on Friday, “after they've exhausted all the options, folks do the right thing. But we’ve got to give them a little help to do the right thing. I'm asking all of you to lift up your voices.”
Call now! The timer is ticking. The first people to call will get “construction workers on the work site . . . teachers in classrooms” and jobs for veterans. This is a special limited-time offer — “American people do not have the luxury of waiting another 14 months.” Act now — or, if you prefer, “right away.”
There is nothing undignified about this. PBS has more dignity than any other station — I realize that this is a low bar, but bear with me — and it does this all the time. All you have to do is wear a suit and not appear to break a sweat. Although it certainly helps if you can come up with an appealing CD gift package, preferably featuring a lot of songs from the ’50s and ’60s that evoke nostalgia, or are vaguely sexist, which is the same thing nowadays.
So it’s plenty dignified! It’s not as though Obama’s the ShamWow guy.
But it might not be the best tone. In general, the more urgently a plan requires that you Call In And Demand Action Now Before Time Runs Out, the less exciting it is when you bring the product home.
I am still very taken with my ShamWow, but this is the exception, not the rule.
In the meantime, better get to the phones, the computers, the — pigeon-launching stations.
If you hurry, he’ll throw in a juicer.