Ads Point Fingers Over False Advertising
By Howard Kurtz
The Ads: From the Obama-Biden campaign, "The Subject":
(Announcer:) He's out of ideas. Out of touch. And running out of time. But with no plan to lift our economy up, John McCain wants to tear Barack Obama down. With smears that have been proven false. Why? McCain's own campaign admits that if the election is about the economy, he's going to lose. But as Americans lose their jobs, homes and savings, it's time for a President who'll change the economy. Not change the subject.
From the McCain-Palin campaign, "Hypo":
(Announcer:) Who is Barack Obama?
KMOV TV ANCHOR (VIDEO): Obama's presidential campaign is asking Missouri law enforcement to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading television ad.
(Announcer:) How hypocritical. Obama's Social Security attack was called "a falsehood." His health care attack ... "misleading". Obama's stem cell attack ... "not true". Barack Obama. He promised better. He lied.
Analysis: Both presidential candidates are using news organizations and fact-checking groups to accuse each other of airing false advertising, though only John McCain goes so far as to call Barack Obama a liar.
Both ignore accusations that their own ad campaigns and public statements have included misrepresentations and falsehoods, pretending that only their opponent is hurling bogus allegations. McCain's commercials have been accused of falsehoods more frequently, although Obama has begun to catch up in the last two weeks.
Obama's ad -- which includes the now-obligatory shot of McCain with President Bush and the accusation that he's "out of touch" -- is on solid ground in accusing the senator from Arizona of trying to change the subject from the economy. McCain's own aides have been quoted as saying he needs to turn the page from the financial crisis and concentrate on attacking Obama's character. It is not accurate, however, to say that McCain has "no plan" for the economy, as he has made a series of proposals involving tax cuts, health coverage and energy.
The "smears" line involves McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, who said last weekend that Obama has been "palling around with terrorists." As the ad notes, CNN called that "false," and the Associated Press said it was "a deliberate attempt to smear Obama." The reference is to onetime Weathermen bomber William Ayers, a slight acquaintance of the senator from Illinois who has served on two boards with him. A CNN correspondent said "there's no indication that Ayers and Obama are palling around or they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years."
By saying McCain is "running out of time" and trying to "change the subject," the ad suggests that the Republican's attacks are born of political desperation and not to be trusted.
McCain's ad is based on the accurate notion that Obama long talked about running a campaign that moved beyond petty politics, thereby rendering him vulnerable to the accusation that he is practicing old-style attack politics.
The charge that Obama is being hypocritical rests on a St. Louis television report that the Democrat had asked Missouri law enforcement officials to target campaigns that run misleading ads. But the correspondent for KMOV-TV was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that Republicans had twisted his story out of context, and that he had meant only that Obama's allies would call attention to questionable ads.
As cited in the ad, Factcheck.org called one Obama commercial "a falsehood sure to frighten seniors who rely on their Social Security checks." In that ad, Obama described the "Bush-McCain privatization plan" as "cutting Social Security benefits in half." McCain has made no such proposal; the Obama ad is based on the president's failed 2005 plan. Factcheck said another Obama spot was "misleading" in accusing McCain, based on an article he wrote, of wanting to "do the same to our health care" that "Wall Street deregulation" has done to the banking industry.
ABC's Jake Tapper, as the spot notes, criticized an Obama radio ad as untrue in claiming that McCain is against stem-cell research without noting that McCain had dropped his earlier opposition. But Tapper also examined a McCain radio ad on the subject and concluded: "Both candidates mislead voters by glossing over or ignoring inconvenient facts." The selective nature of both these ads underscore that judgment.
Posted at 10:52 AM ET on Oct 7, 2008
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