When the actors who play Harry and Louise talk about why they signed on to remake the commercial, you can hear a familiar exhaustion. "The circumstances are much worse nowadays," says the actor who plays Harry. "Things are much more expensive than they were then." The camera pans to Louise. "This wasn't acting because this isn't an abstract issue for either one of us. Both of us know people who are having problems because they don't have adequate coverage, or coverage at all. And we both know more people now than 15 years ago." This statement, quiet and simple and tired, is worlds away from the press releases of NFIB or the AHA.Indeed. There's no telling what the H&L sponsors are going to do politically if and when healthcare reform actually picks up steam — though Louise's closing thought that the next president needs to "bring everyone to the table" is fairly standard code for including insurance companies, business lobbyists, hospital managers, and other interest groups who aren't generally very friendly to genuine reform. Still, the ad itself is carefully neutral, and a picture is worth a thousand words. And the picture this time basically says, "Harry and Louise are older and wiser and they've changed their minds." Regardless of what happens down the road, that's not a bad picture to have hitting the airwaves right now.
POSTSCRIPT: The obvious question, of course, is what the next H&L ad will look like. Will H&L first get built up as a credible, trustworthy voice of Middle American common sense on healthcare, and then later deployed in favor a specific agenda? Hard to say, because even the groups that virulently opposed Clinton's plan in 1993 have, to some extent, genuinely changed their tunes since then. Best advice: trust, but verify.