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Wrestling for Control of Iraq

Two new ads focused squarely on the war in Iraq albeit it with VERY different messages are hitting the television airwaves today.

The ads are being sponsored by Vets for Freedom, a group touting the success of the surge in Iraq, and by MoveOn.org, one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush Administration policies in the Middle East.

The dueling ads represent the ongoing battle in the country about the next step in Iraq. While strong majorities believe the war wasn't worth fighting, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll showed the country is far more divided on what to do now; 50 percent said they favored Obama's plan to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months while 49 percent preferred no specific timetable.

"We think the news that Iraqis really want a timetable for withdrawal just like Americans, just like Obama, hasn't really gotten out there," said MoveOn.org executive director Eli Pariser about the ad. "We want to educate voters about that."

Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom, said the goal of his group's ad is twofold: "inform the general public about the success of the surge" and "recognize that this policy...was indeed opposed by some."

The ads are below. Which one more effectively makes its point?

Vets For Freedom

MoveOn.org

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 16, 2008; 3:41 PM ET
Categories:  Ad Wars , Eye on 2008  
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Comments

My reaction to the two ads is largely based on the approach vice the message. In one, I see a group of people expressing what seems to be their personal feelings.

In the other ad, I see nothing but pretty sunsets and a voice telling me what to think and believe with no basis for fact, or even source, of the message.

As an independent the VfF ad speaks to me as a rational person while the moveon ad tells me what to think and tries to play on my emotions.

I have no doubt the moveon ad will greatly appeal to people who are convinced we should pull out of Iraq no matter what and the VfF ad will appeal to people who think we should finish what was started.

As to the messages themselves - I often wonder if the people who think we would "end the war" by pulling out the troops also think we would end crime by pulling out the police? People who do not think the surge IS workING should look at areas like the Balkans. During the breakup of Yugoslavia the situation was at least as bad in Bosnia as it was in Iraq. What finally made the difference was the sense of security and safety that resulted in people being able to trust each other again which eventually led to reconciliation and significant progress being made. This did not happen over night and it will not happen over night in Iraq. However, if we do not provide the resources necessary to allow the average Iraqi to develop a sense of security and safety there will never be reconciliation and progress.

As to comments about the lack of political progress in Iraq - based on this argument we should withdraw US troops from the US. The Iraqi Parliament is making better progress than our Congress.

Posted by: Don | July 17, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

A substantial majority of Iraqis want the US to withdraw all of its military forces sooner rather than later, and this has been the case for a long time now. The MoveOn.org ad is superb, in my view, in that it gives weight to the wishes of the people of Iraq.

The "surge" has been a fantastically expensive exercise that distracted essential attention from the Afghanistan arena, and it seems to have much more to do with enabling profitable oil contracts to take place than it does with achieving serious stability in Iraq.

Posted by: James Canning | July 17, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I want to comment on your title - "Wrestling for Control of Iraq" - which I think is a fine idea. I suggest that Jesse Ventura square off against the Iron Sheik, with profits from the pay-per-view going to the Iraq Reconstruction Fund...

Posted by: Skip Mendler | July 17, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

"I know how to win wars." McCain quoted elsewhere on the website.

Okay Senator, how about some answers before we vote for you.

How many wars are you planning?
What do you and your advisers estimate that the wars will cost (I hope that you don't consider asking questions about future costs to the taxpayers a form of whining.)
How many troops do you estimate will be disabled?
How many troops do you estimate will be killed?

Posted by: DejaVu | July 17, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse


The 'vets for freedom' ad has Alex Castellano's fingerprints all over it. His gritty, close-up camera style, his reliance on black and white photography, his simple repetitive message. Compare with the ad he made for Jesse Helms:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIyewCdXMzk

As you may know, Castellanos is under contract to McCain. But this ad is from a 527 -- supposedly independent group. Of course, until a few days ago, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman were on the Board of Directors.

Could the McCain campaign be illegally consorting with an 'independent' advocacy group?

Nah, of course not. He's a Maverick.

Why don't you do some actual reportage, Mr. Cilliza?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse


Chris, you say "50 percent said they favored Obama's plan to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months while 49 percent preferred no specific timetable."
but, that wasn't the question.

This is the question the poll asked:
"26. Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer - a timetable or no timetable?"

The question is a lie. McCain doesn't just oppose a timetable, he doesn't want to withdraw at all. So, when the question itself lies, why should the answer mean anything?

The Move-on ad addresses this issue head on. Vets For Freedom avoids it. (Isn't it funny that Joe Lieberman is on Vets For Freedom's Advisory Board, even though he challenges Cheney for the number of draft exemptions he received and never served?)

How about this for the question for the next poll?

26. The Iraqi Prime Minister is insisting on a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops in Iraq. President Bush and John McCain have refused to give Iraq any timetable and are said to favor permanent bases in Iraq. Which approach do you prefer - a timetable or no timetable?

Now, how would that result be different from the question asked in the El Wapo poll?

Posted by: capemh | July 17, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

You guys are still there! Move on. It is not an issue.

Posted by: imagination | July 17, 2008 3:10 AM | Report abuse

You guys are still there! Move on. It is not an issue.

Posted by: imagination | July 17, 2008 3:10 AM | Report abuse

You guys are still there! Move on. It is not an issue.

Posted by: imagination | July 17, 2008 3:10 AM | Report abuse

Obama is the candidate of the Appeasement crowd, they want to see the Terrorist win. They want to keep taking their shoes off every time they get on a plane. They won't be happy until we are all dead by a mushroom cloud. Obama is their Neville Chamberlain who will bring "peace in our time"

I wonder how many millions will die for "Appeasement in our time crowd"

VJ Machiavelli
http://www.vjmachiavelli.blogspot.com

Posted by: VJ Machiavelli | July 17, 2008 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Vets for Freedom could have sold the surge as a means to end the war sooner... to allow the President, whoever is elected, to declare victory and bring them home.

Instead, the script repeats the line: Finish the job, finish the job, finish the job -- adopting a repetitive cadence that is evocative of a war without end.

Vets for Freedom should demand a make-good on that piece of copywriting. With ads like that, Obama may end up the winner on the Iraq issue.

The MoveOn ad hits the right tone, reflective of where the American people are on the war.

Can't pro-war groups find good copywriters? I'm sure one side of the issue doesn't have that much of a stranglehold on talent. Or by this time, maybe they do. The vets I've heard want the job declared won and done, and soon.

___________________________________

IF YOU VALUE OUR DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE
OF LAW, PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK:

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/vigilante-injustice-organized-gang-stalking-american-gestapo-are-they-doing-hi-tech-torture

Posted by: scrivener | July 17, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse

It is darkly humorous to see moveon.org claiming that what the Iraqi government wants is "exactly" what Obama wants. Based upon the primaries, would it even have mattered to Obama what Iraqis wanted? It is get out, and get out now. McCain's inelegant "100 years" remark has now been lampooned into senselessness. I wonder how much money will be spent on fighting this war on Iraq, versus the war in Iraq. So, if Obama wins, withdraws troops , and Iraq slides back into a state worse than today, Dems will spin it as Bush's error and Reps will spin in as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If McCain wins and Iraq continues to improve Reps will call it a good end to a bad start while Dems will claim it was it was never worth the cost. Pundits will be paid FOX and MXNBC will make their advertising dollars, and the real world will keep spinning. It all makes me wonder what real news is, outside of NPR, the BBC and the Economist.

Posted by: ccarter | July 17, 2008 12:20 AM | Report abuse

"The notion that the surge of troops is what helped decrease violence is a LIE "

No, more troops means less violence. More cops=less crime. Yeah, the payoffs helped too, but let's not discount what the troops are doing.

Problem is that nothing else is happening. These benchmarks aren't being met. No political reconciliation is taking place.

And the surge isn't sustainable. The reason it was called a surge was to indicate that it was temporary. There is nothing to suggest that once the surge ends, things will be ok.

THAT'S the lie.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 16, 2008 11:28 PM | Report abuse

The surge 'worked' because of the surge in bribes paid to Sunnis. And Al Qaeda are Sunnis. And some of the money, weapons and training we've given them - for this short-term political gain - is going to come back to haunt us.

We can't 'win' another country's civil war. It doesn't work that way. The notion that the surge of troops is what helped decrease violence is a LIE perpetrated by Republicans to help get Bush vindicated and McCain elected.

It is a LIE.

Posted by: JR, Boston | July 16, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The Vets have it right. The Moveon ad was just a warmed-over liberal Democrat anti-Vietnam War ad that they just dusted off and changed the names on. Soros's Moveon, the liberal Democrats, and Barack Obama's goal is to do exactly what happened then. Cut-and-run and head for the hills with our tails between our legs and our militaries yellow-streak back showing leaving the Iraqi's and Afghanis to fend for themselves. Once these liberals accomplish that, they'll probably also do what they did then, spit at our returning soldiers, sailors and Marines comming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. So what if a million or so Iraqi and Afghani citizens get re-indoctrinated, re-educated and killed a la what Pol Pot did then. It's no skin off their noses.

Posted by: madhatter | July 16, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

The 'vets for freedom' ad has Alex Castellano's fingerprints all over it. His gritty, close-up camera style, his reliance on black and white photography, his simple repetitive message. Compare with the ad he made for Jesse Helms:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIyewCdXMzk

As you may know, Castellanos is under contract to McCain. But this ad is from a 527 -- supposedly independent group. Of course, until a few days ago, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman were on the Board of Directors.

Could the McCain campaign be illegally consorting with an 'independent' advocacy group?

Nah, of course not. He's a Maverick.

Why don't you do some actual reportage, Mr. Cilliza?


Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2008 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Voters have already made up their minds. They agree that the surge was great, but it's still time to go from Iraq. Maliki's ultimatum was the final straw. And now Afghanistan is down the tubes...

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: matt | July 16, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

As an advertising professional, I think the Vets for Freedom ad is stronger, because of the intense personal nature of it, the up close faces, the emotion--and these are vets [at least, allegedly] so they will arouse positive emotional reaction.

That said, I find it offensive and cliche-ridden and dishonest. The surge has not accomplished what it was supposed to do -- to create 'space' for political reconciliation, which has not happened. All that HAS happened was for Maliki to cement his grip on power, in a not terribly democratic manner.

The Moveon ad is too distant and not focused or emotional enough. It's too intellectual; the other has more gut feeling, even if it's dishonest.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Vets for Freedom could have sold the surge as a means to end the war sooner... to allow the President, whomever he is, to declare victory and bring them home.

Instead, the script repeats the line: Finish the job, finish the job, finish the job -- adopting a repetitive cadence that is evocative of a war without end.

Vets for Freedom should demand a make-good on that piece of copywriting. With ads like that, Obama may end up a winner after all.

The MoveOn ad hits the right tone, reflective of where the American people are on the war.

Can't pro-war groups find good copywriters? I'm sure one side of the issue doesn't have that much of a stranglehold on talent. Or by this time, maybe they do. The vets I've heard want it done, and soon.

___________________________________

IF YOU VALUE OUR DEMOCRACY AND THE
RULE OF LAW, PLEASE CLINK ON THIS LINK:


http://www.nowpublic.com/world/vigilante-injustice-organized-gang-stalking-american-gestapo-are-they-doing-hi-tech-torture

Posted by: scrivener | July 16, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

VTF wins this matchup. They have a much simpler and more positive message. The faces humanize the message and the quotes by Democratic senators create a bad guy. "Victory" sounds so much better than "timetable"

It really sucks. Republicans have just the most asinine views on things, but have the most soundbite friendly positions.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 16, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

sorry, I misspoke. I was incorrect to say 'satisfactory progress' and should have said 'satisfactory efforts', which does not imply progress.

Posted by: bsimon | July 16, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually, zouk, you are incorrect. The White House's assessment of progress on the Iraqis meeting the surge benchmarks did not find 15 of 18 were 'met'. It found 'satisfactory progress' on 15 of 18 benchmarks.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j2KfQBk9ZhPhOJZ7biQo-IkmdJoAD91L6L407

"The White House sees the progress in a particularly positive light, declaring in a new assessment to Congress that Iraq's efforts on 15 of 18 benchmarks are "satisfactory" -- almost twice of what it determined to be the case a year ago. The May 2008 report card, obtained by the Associated Press, determines that only two of the benchmarks -- enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues -- are unsatisfactory."

Posted by: bsimon | July 16, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"15 of 18 benchmarks met on the last pass. better than the Pelosi congress, which isn't saying much. will Harry Reid ever pull his head out of the sand?"

Um, no. None of them have been met.

Posted by: DDAWD | July 16, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

"The surge was designed to achieve political ends - which still have not occurred. "

15 of 18 benchmarks met on the last pass. better than the Pelosi congress, which isn't saying much. will Harry Reid ever pull his head out of the sand?

Posted by: kingofzouk | July 16, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I found the Vets for Freedom ad to be more successful also. One can argue the premise of the ad (did the surge actually work?) but as a means of conveying their point in a short amount of time to an audience that is in "passive entertainment" mode (i.e., TV watching), it works. But just because the people in the ad are Iraq war veterans doesn't mean they are experts on tactics and strategy -- or politics. Of course, if VfF trotted out a few generals or ex-generals, I'd be more inclined to believe them.

Also, as Chris in Oregon points out, the faces are really homogeneous. They couldn't find a non-white person for their ad? Or are they targeting their ad to white people?

I'm not sure I get the point MoveOn was trying to make by showing pictures of sunsets. I guess it would be underscoring that it is time to leave Iraq, but that might be a little esoteric for the average TV viewer.

Posted by: mnteng | July 16, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Viscerally I favored the more conservative ad.

I am curious as to the cross-section of responses by party affiliation. I am an indie who thinks BHO's current position - goals with wiggle room based on events - is OK. But I also think the surge was part of a successful strategy that included buying off Sunnis and the temporary cooperation of Sadr. And I think McC got that right while most of the Ds did not.

I am not offended by either ad, just like the tone of the VfF better.

Posted by: MarkInAustin | July 16, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Arguing that the surge has been a success is contingent on redefining firstly what the surge was designed to accomplish & secondly what success means in Iraq.

The surge was designed to achieve political ends - which still have not occurred. Violence is down dramatically, which is certainly a good thing. But if political acheivements do not follow - it is unclear that any reduction in violence will be lasting.

Now that supporters of the surge strategy are calling the strategy a success, they need to start explaining what that means for our involvement in Iraq. For how long will we continue to deploy part-time military (i.e. guard & reserves) to Iraq? When will we start reducing our overall military presence there? If not now, why not?

Posted by: bsimon | July 16, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I think the move-on add wins, from a production standpoint. The quotes that VFF shows appear and disappear too quickly to be read. Also, in an era where political advertisers are so conscious of representing diversity in ads, it is remarkable, distracting, and even disturbing how homogeneous the faces in the VFF ad are!

Posted by: Chris in Oregon | July 16, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Given the general suspicion cast by the poll, I am not too sure that there is a 50-50% split -especially since it is the Washington Post.

Posted by: 2008 | July 16, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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