Post-Debate, McCain Steps Away from Bush as Obama Seeks to Tie Him to President
By Howard Kurtz
The McCain Ad: (McCain:) The last eight years haven't worked very well, have they? I'll make the next four better. Your savings, your job and your financial security are under siege.
Washington is making it worse -- bankrupting us with their spending. Telling us paying higher taxes is "patriotic"? And saying we need to "spread the wealth around"? They refuse common sense solutions for energy independence.
So every day we send billions to the Middle East. We need a new direction, and I have a plan. Your savings. We'll rebuild them. Your investments. They'll grow again. Energy. We'll drill here and we'll create a renewable energy economy. Lower taxes and less spending will protect your job and create new ones. That'll restore our country.
Stand up with me, let's fight for America.
The Obama Ad:
(McCain:) Senator Obama, I am not President Bush.
(Narrator:) True, but you did vote with Bush 90 percent of the time. Tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy. But almost nothing for the middle class -- same as Bush. Keep spending 10 billion a month in Iraq while our own economy struggles -- same as Bush. You may not be George Bush, but ...
(McCain:) I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time, higher than a lot of my even Republican colleagues.
Analysis: Both candidates, in these quickie spots after their third and final debate, are tackling the question of whether a McCain administration would differ little from that of President Bush.
John McCain's 60-second ad contains a remarkable admission for a Republican candidate, essentially declaring the two terms of the president of his party a failure. In declaring that he'll make "the next four better," the senator from Arizona is trying to distance himself not just from specific Bush policies but from the president himself.
If Washington is "bankrupting us with their spending," as McCain says, it is Bush who was in charge, along with a Republican Congress for six of the eight years.
McCain undercuts his case by not explaining whom he is quoting. The line about how paying taxes is "patriotic" comes from Barack Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. Obama made the "spread the wealth" comment in discussing tax policy with the man whom McCain kept invoking in Wednesday's debate, Joe the plumber from Ohio. The effect is just to blame the country's direction on "Washington" -- where McCain has been a member of Congress for 26 years -- rather than draw a sharp contrast with the Democratic ticket.
McCain is not specific about his economic and energy plans, but his promise of "lower spending" fails to acknowledge that he recently voted for the $700 billion federal bailout of the banking system.
Obama's 30-second ad is effective because it ties his opponent to Bush by using McCain's own words.
The senator from Illinois is being selective in charging that McCain would shower tax breaks on "big corporations and the wealthy." By extending the Bush tax cuts, McCain would continue the lower rates for all businesses and individuals who pay taxes, although the most affluent would receive the biggest share.
The ad says McCain would continue to spend $10 billion a month on Iraq but sidesteps the fact that Obama would also have to spend billions on the war because, under his best-case scenario, it would take 16 months to withdraw all U.S. troops.
But no one can argue with McCain himself declaring that he's voted with Bush 90 percent of the time, when he was still trying to win the GOP nomination. The focus of these dueling ads is at the heart of the campaign: whether McCain credibly represents change, or more of the same.
Posted at 3:01 PM ET on Oct 16, 2008
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