Saturday, August 23, 2008

Attack ads show wisdom of Obama position on campaign financing

I've been disappointed with a number of positions Barack Obama has taken over the past months, but the controversy over Obama's opting out of public financing for his presidential campaign left me yawning widely. Now the wisdom of his decision, and his rationale for it, is more clear than ever. The New York Times today (on page A14, unfortunately) reports that billionaire Harold Simmons donated $2.9 million to the "conservative" American Issues Project on August 12, and now that organization has committeed $2.8 million to run the above ad linking Obama with former Weatherperson William Ayers. Simmons previously donated $2 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose attack ads against John Kerry in 2004 were just as dishonest as this new ad against Obama.

Obama and his campaign staff clearly saw the folly of restricting their campaign spending, despite the huge amount of money they have raised, leaving McCain and his supporters free to finance millions of dollars in attack ads while playing innocent (note, in the Times article, the clear ties between the American Issues Project and the McCain campaign, despite various denials.) What I would like to see now is the Obama campaign get down and dirty with McCain, with a series of attack ads of its own--the one difference being that all the campaign has to do is tell the truth about McCain. No lying, no distortions needed.

PS--I think Biden was a good choice. More on that soon, that is, if I feel I have anything original or unusual to say about it. The blogosphere is a crowded place!

Important Update (August 27): The New York Times reports that the Obama campaign is taking an aggressive stance against this ad, including challenging its legality. That's better than Kerry's ineffectual and tardy defense against the Swift-boat attacks. Simmons is clearly acting as an agent of the McCain campaign, since he is one of its major fundraisers.

Even progressives can get it wrong department: Jay Rosen at PressThink busts Mother Jones magazine for supposedly busting Obama for hyping his historical role. An interesting read.

Afghan civilian deaths: The New York Times sees fit to print on page A6 of its August 24 edition the news that Afghan president Hamid Karzai is putting the number of civilian deaths in a U.S. airstrike at up to 95. I would urge readers to peruse this particular article carefully, because between the lines it is easy to see the callousness and disregard for human life with which the "coalition" is mounting its operations in Afghanistan. Karzai has protested these civilian deaths time after time with little effect, making his leadership of the country a joke and the future of the military campaign there a looming quagmire for either President Obama or President McCain.


jqb said...

There's a good piece on Obama and his non-flip-flop on campaign financing in the August issue of FAIR's Extra! Update: "The Pledge That Wasn't: Misrepresenting Obama's public financing promise", by John K. Wilson. As I mentioned previously, Obama has actually be remarkably consistent in his positions, but his "nuanced" (i.e., the sort of complexity that is a hallmark of high intelligence) views make it easy to paint them as flip-flops by his detractors -- even his allies, like MoJo.

Anne Gilbert said...

That ad is absolutely disgusting! About the only thing I can say is, these ads are so stupid, they don't seem to be doing Obama any particular harm.
Anne G

jqb said...

these ads are so stupid, they don't seem to be doing Obama any particular harm.

I have no idea what, other than projection, your judgment could be based on, since he certainly has been harmed by something, having suffered a 24% percent drop in the polls among independents. Study after study shows that negative ads work, and Obama's dropping numbers have widely been attributed to the negative attacks.

Michael Balter said...

I'm not sure that we can distinguish between the various factors responsible for Obama's falling numbers, which include negative ads but also a steady stream of media stories along the lines of "why isn't Obama doing better" and making a big deal of his race. The more important question is what to do about it, and there I think there are divisions among his supporters as I indicated in a previous post. My own feeling is that he should go on the attack pretty aggressively, or get Biden or his supporters to do it if he wants to appear above that kind of politics.

jqb said...

Certainly the corporate media is largely to blame, including their trumpeting the right wing talking points, which greatly magnifies the effect of the negative ads. As for attacking aggressively, I agree, but he doesn't need to meet kind with kind, he can slaughter McCain on the issues (and again, Biden should be able to make mincemeat of McCain's foreign policy cred). As I noted before, the American people don't know the real McCain, they don't know that he's been among the 10 most conservative Senators throughout his career (but they have heard that Obama is "the most liberal Senator", even though Kerry got that label in 2004, and despite the fact that Roll Call, on which those are based, has both times said that it's an outlier, an artifact of them being on the campaign trail), they don't know that McCain voted 100% with Bush this year and 95% last year, that he gets a 0% from NARAL on his reproductive rights record and says he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade (a flip-flop), a similar low score on the environment, that he votes against veteran rights and equipment, etc. And some 527 -- since they are supposed to be independent of the candidate -- should defy Obama's request to stay out of it and talk about McCain's character, his Chelsea and Hillary jokes, his cheating on and dumping his first wife and calling his second a c***, etc. Unlike the crap that McCain is slinging, this is all factual and valid. And of course pro-Obama bloggers should do everything they can to hammer McCain. :-)

jqb said...

P.S. I should acknowledge that you did a fine job of just that in your "John McCain: Shooting from the hip" piece.