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August 4, 2008
McCain’s Bad Ad Problem
Did you see John McCain’s controversial new ad last week, the one where
he bashed Barack Obama, but then had the facts of the ad called into
question? The answer to that question shouldn’t be “yes” or “no” – it
should be, “which one?”
McCain, or in some cases the Republican National Committee, have
released anti-Obama ads seemingly every day of the last two weeks.
McCain did little else memorably for the entire month of July. And while
political ads, as a medium, have never been known either for fairness or
honesty, it’s hard to remember any candidate putting out so many bad ads
in such a short period of time.
First came a 30-second spot, called “Pump,” which addressed high gas
prices and, in a curious confusion of cause and effect, asserted that
gas prices are rising “because some in Washington are still saying no to
drilling in America.” As “Obama” chants fill the soundtrack, we are
taught who to blame.
This argument is bizarre, to say the least. It’s one thing to assert
that domestic drilling would, at some point in the undetermined future,
lead to lower prices at the pump. But what McCain is doing is blaming
already existing high gas prices on one senator out of 100. There are
many, many factors that led to the present prices, but Obama’s position
on a bill that hasn’t yet come to a vote is pretty clearly not one of
Obama’s trip overseas led to other goofy ads, starting with an RNC spot
featuring one young German – out of the 200,000 there – saying that his
“friends in America who are Marxists” are working for the Democrat’s
candidacy. But the trip – specifically its German leg – also led to an
even more loathsome McCain ad.
this one, Obama is accused of having “canceled a visit with wounded
troops,” because he wasn’t allowed to bring video cameras. The real
reason for the cancellation, it turned out, had nothing to do with
cameras, but rather Pentagon rules over campaign activities taking place
on military bases.
Obama has, in fact,
met with troops numerous times, both during the trip and stateside, and
the footage in the ad itself of the candidate playing basketball has him
doing so, yes, with the troops. The ad has been dubbed false by
ad-watchdog columns in several newspapers, as well as FactCheck.org.
If only that were
the end of it. This week, BusinessWeek’s Brand New Day blog
quoted a GOP strategist as saying the campaign actually had a second ad
all set to go, if Obama had in fact gone ahead with the visit, accusing
him of “using
wounded troops as campaign props.” It’s sort of hard to gin up false
outrage when we know the campaign was prepared to gin up equally false
outrage had Obama done the exact opposite thing.
But perhaps most vacuous at all was a spot, called “Celeb,” that called
Obama “the biggest celebrity in the world,” as images of Britney Spears
and Paris Hilton flash by. Then the announcer asks, “Is he ready to
The implication, of course, is that the candidate is lacking substance,
and is just as vacuous as the two celebutantes. It’s a comparison that
would only make sense if Britney, say, had been elected president of the
Harvard Law Review, or Paris had taught constitutional law at the
University of Chicago.
Not that Obama is even their candidate. Britney, in Michael Moore’s
“Fahrenheit 9/11,” said of Dubya that “I think we should just trust our
president in every decision that he makes and we should just support
that.” As for Paris, I’m not sure of her political views, or if she even
has them, but the Los Angeles Times reported that her parents
have contributed the maximum to McCain’s campaign. I’m also certain that
Paris is opposed to the estate tax.
These ads aren’t just unfunny, dishonest and shabbily produced. They’re
not likely to convince anyone of anything, and they fully contradict
McCain’s preferred “Straight Talk” persona. McCain would be wise to show
voters why they should elect him – rather than go down the path, once
again, of unfairly smearing his opponent.
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