Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"The Man from Abilene," Eisenhower, 1952
[TEXT: A Political Announcement paid for by Citizens for Eisenhower]
MALE NARRATOR #1 (voice echoing): The man from Abilene.
[TEXT: The MAN FROM ABILENE]
MALE NARRATOR #1: Out of the heartland of America, out of this small frame house in Abilene, Kansas, came a man, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Through the crucial hour of historic D-Day, he brought us to the triumph and peace of VE Day. Now, another crucial hour in our history—the big question:
MAN: General, if war comes, is this country really ready?
EISENHOWER: It is not. The Administration has spent many billions of dollars for national defense. Yet today, we haven't enough tanks for the fighting in Korea. It is time for a change.
MALE NARRATOR #1: The nation, haunted by the stalemate in Korea, looks to Eisenhower. Eisenhower knows how to deal with the Russians. He has met Europe leaders, has got them working with us. Elect the number one man for the number one job of our time.
(Voice echoing) November 4th vote for peace. Vote for Eisenhower.
MALE NARRATOR #2: A paid film.
[TEXT: A PAID POLITICAL FILM]
Eisenhower’s biographical 1952 commercial “The Man from Abilene” reminded voters of his World War II heroics and suggested that he was the right man to deal with the war in Korea.
In 1956, with tensions simmering in Eastern Europe and the Suez Canal, the Democrats used a conversation between nominee Adlai Stevenson and rising star John Kennedy to suggest that “Peace Is Non-Partisan.”
Richard Nixon and running mate Henry Cabot Lodge, using the slogan “They Understand What Peace Demands,” proclaimed that the Communist threat was the most important issue. This ad implied that the relatively young Kennedy could not be trusted with this grave responsibility.
As the 1960s progressed, Vietnam replaced the Cold War as the major military issue. An angry “Raymond Massey” railed against the growing casualty count in Vietnam in a commercial that evokes parallels to antiwar sentiments about the current situation in Iraq.
Richard Nixon’s 1968 commercial “Vietnam” also laid blame for the escalation of the Vietnam quagmire.
President Carter’s approval ratings in 1980 were hurt severely by the Iran hostage crisis, and there was a defensive tone to his ad “Commander 60,” which reminded voters of Carter’s long years of military service (and, implicitly, Ronald Reagan’s lack thereof).
Reagan’s 1980 commercial “Peace” assailed Carter’s leadership as weak and vacillating, while also reassuring voters that his own goal was peace and restraint.
Invoking John Kennedy and Harry Truman, Walter Mondale’s 1984 commercial “Arms Control 5” again tried to reclaim the issue for the Democratic Party.
With Iraq at the center of the 2004 election, President Bush’s campaign used this ad to convey the traditional message that Kerry is a liberal Democrat who doesn’t support essential weapons systems.
Kerry’s ad “Risk” countered this stereotype in an ad intended to wrest control of the issue from the Republicans.