One Little Promise She Was Gonna Keep

by Daniel Foster

Bob, “American Girl” might be the perfect three-chord rock song from the undisputed master of the three-chord rock song.* But I am always queasy about presidential candidates’ campaign songs, because you can almost always read into the lyrics for ironies and portents.

Who can forget the choice of “Born in the U.S.A.” by a Reagan re-election campaign organization that clearly hadn’t listened to the lyrics?

I got in a little hometown jam

And so they put a rifle in my hands

Sent me off to Vietnam Foreign land

To go and kill the yellow man

[Chorus]

Come back home to the refinery

Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”

I go down to see the V.A. man

He said “Son don’t you understand”

Or Kerry’s use of “Fortunate Son” in 2004:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag

Ooh, they’re red, white and blue

And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”

Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son

It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no Yeah!

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand

Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh

But when the taxman comes to the door

Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes

Or even Giuliani’s use of the The Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail”

How you get a rude and a reckless?

Don’t you be so crude and a feckless

You been drinking brew for breakfast

Rudie can’t fail

So when I hear Bachmann is using “American Girl” (as I think Hillary Clinton did during the 2008 primary) I go straight to:

And for one desperate moment there

He crept back in her memory

God it’s so painful when something that’s so close

Is still so far out of reach

If Bachmann crushes it in Iowa and then comes in third or fourth in New Hampshire and loses momentum. . . .

Safer in my opinion to just go with an old patriotic standard, or better yet, an instrumental.

*Yes, would-be commenters, I know it’s actually four chords plus a couple of phrasing variants.