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Campaign Trailer Critic: Newt and Callista Gingrich's 'City Upon a Hill'

Friday, April 29, 2011

Throughout the 2012 campaign season, It's A Free Country's political film critic Sarah Kate Kramer will be analyzing the videos released by presidential hopefuls. Today that hopeful is Newt Gingrich.

It opens with thunder crack. A storm is coming. Something special is under attack--something at the heart of all we hold dear. As luscious hills of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties flow by it quickly becomes clear the stakes are freedom, liberty, America's heart and soul. As the danger grows, internal fights threaten to tear our community apart, the music crescendos as the tension peaks...this is the story of an idea, a spirit, it's the story of AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM.

And it's brought to you by the Gingriches. Hello Newt, cheers, Callista!

A City Upon A Hill -- The Spirit of American Exceptionalism, a documentary/promotional video tied to Newt's presidential ambitions, will be released on Friday. The picture is produced by Citizen's United, a Newt Gingrich-associated Republican advocacy group. While Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are promoting their presidential exploratory committee campaigns in short web videos (playing a soft hued kindly great uncle and an 21st century action hero, respectively) Gingrich is playing Ken Burns--the full-length documentary historian.

An analysis of the trailer provides some real insight into Newt's mind, or at least the character his PR people are making him out to be. To begin, let's take a look at the title. "A City Upon A Hill" is a shout-out to all the good Christians out there, who will recognize it from Matthew 5:14. President Kennedy and President Reagan used a few times too.

After some nice landscape shots from bird's eye view, some horse feet trotting (a Paul Revere reference, perhaps?) Gingrich brings us a portrait of Alexis de Toqueville, the French traveler who wrote the first heavy tome on the United States in 1831, Democracy in America, describing the country as exceptional and with a "special role to play  in human history." But despite the nice things they say about de Toqueville, the Gingriches clearly have an intense dislike for the French. Callista jumps in to point out that "while revolution led to anarchy in France, the American revolution produced a unique culture of freedom and opportunity," a sentence which is oddly enough followed by a shot of a marching band. Wonderful opportunity. And what is this snide remark supposed to mean? That the French revolution only produced guillotines and baguettes?

Next up is another shout out to the three "R's," Religious Reaganite Republicans. It's an excerpt from President Reagan's 1988 speech to the Republican National Convention: "I believe that God put this land between the two great oceans to be found by special people from every corner of the world." This is followed by the requisite African American scholar speaking, and as she says "we've returned to who we really are as Americans," the requisite image of a strong, solid farmer, rooted to the land. Cut to America's next frontier: an American astronaut in Space.

Why is Newt trying so, so hard to position himself as the hero of the story of American Exceptionalism? A wild guess? It just might have to do with the fact that President Obama is being accused by some Republicans, like John Bolton and presidential explorer Mike Huckabee, of not believing in it at all.

The film's score tells us that American Exceptionalism is in danger. "Our belief in American exceptionalism has historically been bipartisan. However there are signs that this is no longer so," Gingrich narrates. "We're at battle, quite frankly, between two competing values, the American system and the European socialistic system," says Andrew Breitbart.  Wait a second--are we at war with Europe or is this just for dramatic effect?

How can we strengthen American Exceptionalism? Callista asks, while the camera pans over a placard that says, "trash this health care bill law."

Shots of the Statue of Liberty, of a swinging Main Street sign, archival World War II victory footage...and then, hello, it's Donald Trump! He warns that American Exceptionalism is vulnerable. A soldier in uniform hugs a child. America is awesome.

The film ends with Michele Bachmann's charge to protect American Exceptionalism (apparently Gingrich is happy to share the limelight with GOP celebrities), and the text, City Upon A Hill, makes a landing with science fiction-y sound effects that signal signal the future.

Thank you Newt, for this exceptional contribution to American film history.

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Comments [1]

mike tyson

this was an article that I really enjoyed on my most recent tour. thank you.

-THE CHAMP

Apr. 12 2013 06:37 PM

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