The Barack Obama of 2008, the inspiring candidate whose soaring rhetoric transfixed a nation, is about to re-emerge, in a film meant to alter the course of the current campaign. The Obama of four years ago will again be seen at the height of his powers, transporting vast throngs of supporters to a promised land blessed by a new kind of politics.
The movie’s creators do not wish the president well.
The film is a product of Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group whose landmark 2010 Supreme Court victory over the Federal Elections Commission denuded campaign finance reform, earned an unprecedented State of the Union rebuke from Obama, and gave rise to the dominant role of Super PACs in national politics. Those were unexpected results; what Citizen United really wanted when it took the FEC to court was to make movies.
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David Bossie, the group’s president, had been impressed by Michael Moore’s 2004 anti-Bush polemic, “Farenheit 911” – not by only the film’s commercial success, but by the impact of the advertising campaign promoting the film. Bossie considered Moore’s ads far the best political spots of the 2004 cycle, and he decided to transform Citizen United into a political production company. He’d make conservative films targeting liberal candidates, perhaps making some money through the sale of DVDs. But his larger purpose was to use the advertisements for his films as political weapons, exempt (he hoped) from the restrictions of campaign finance laws because they were in support of a commercial product.