Barack Obama

In a Swing State Near You: Attack Ads and Energy Policy

The recent run of negative ads out of the McCain campaign has certainly gained attention for their deceitful, dishonest, and petty attacks. The "Celeb" ad, on the heels of the clearly false claim about the Obama camp canceling the visit to Landstuhl because they couldn’t have media present, seemed to serve as a tipping point for catching the ire of mainstream journalists and even a former McCain advisor. These false claims, on top of ads using imagery clearly designed to scare people about Obama by calling him presumptuous (read: uppity), have lead to the McCain campaign looking, as NDN President Simon Rosenberg wrote this morning, bitter, spiteful, jealous, and angry. Certainly not Presidential.

Meanwhile, substance has gone straight out the window – or has it? As a backdrop to these attacks and counter attacks, energy policy has stayed at the fore of the campaign. But, like in the primary, energy policy is being used to attribute character traits.

In case you somehow haven’t seen it, "Celeb:"

The ad, of course, makes a lot of odd choices (Britney, Paris) that have been discussed ad nauseum. It also chooses to claim that Obama wants to raise taxes on electricity and keep America dependent on foreign oil. The foreign oil claim would be defensible if one somehow bought the claim that lifting the offshore drilling ban would do anything meaningful, but at least the argument follows. It’s the raising electricity tax claim that is so absurd – the only Obama proposal that would raise the price of electricity is Cap and Trade legislation, which McCain supposedly favors as well.

So why make the claim? Well, if Democrats, allegedly, are two things, it’s that they care more about what foreigners think than "real" Americans and want to take your money. So, if the theme is energy, then McCain needed to find two issues to fit the go-to template.

This sort of campaigning is ok though, because, from’s Ben Smith, McCain is proud:

"All I can say is we’re proud of that commercial," McCain said. "We think Americans need to know that I believe that we should base this campaign on what we can do for Americans at home and how we can make Americans safe and prosperous and that’s the theme of our campaign."

"I respect and admire sen Obama, but we have stark differences," McCain said. "And those differences need to be drawn."

"These campaigns are tough," he said, "But I'm proud of the campaign we've run."

Obama’s response, "Low Road:"

Independent groups have also chosen to engage on the issue with six-figure buys. From the Sierra Club, airing in Colorado, New Hampshire, Ohio and Washington, D.C. "Full-Nelson:"

And from MoveOn, "Gimmick:"

On the off chance that you're tired of the negative ads, NDN will be hosting a speech from Assistant U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin on the Green Economic Opportunity tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. at the Phoenix Park hotel in Washington, D.C. The address will be followed by a panel on "Energy and the American Way of Life." For more information, and to RSVP, click here.


The new McCain ad.

Josh Marshall has a smart look at some of the themes behind the ad, and how it evokes the now infamous Call Me ad from 2006.

To me, the ad also is full of bitter emotions. Spite. Jealousy. Anger. Emotions people often associate with losing ventures, ones frustrated with their inability to keep up with their competition. No matter what else, this new McCain ad is - given that it replaced an ad that the campaign has now admitted was untrue - this new McCain ad is not a good sign of the mental state of the McCain campaign itself. They know they are being beat by a better candidate and are angry about it. 

The Media Begins to Confront the Awfulness of the McCain Campaign

Today's New York Times has a remarkable editorial that dives deeply into a theme we've been exploring here at NDN for the last few months - the overwhelming sense of weakness, desperation and just plain awfulness of the McCain campaign and its candidate.

It begins:

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers)

The rest of the editorial is very much worth reading here. In today's paper, the Times also has a related article in its news section, and the Washington Post offers up a story, McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence, which explores the integrity of McCain's effort. As readers of this blog know, I have been arguing for months that McCain and his performance are a legitimate and important issue in the campaign. His ads have been full of outright lies. His public comments have been full of false statements about facts, history, his opponent and even his own voting record. There is a lack of seriousness about some of the major issues facing the country. He has knowingly violated campaign finance laws he helped create. He has said he would clear his campaign of lobbyists and has now reversed that decision. He is on his third campaign manager. Several senior campaign advisors have had to resign. He hid two surgeries he had this year, during the campaign, from the public. The list goes on and on...

Yesterday, I looked at the lies behind his last three TV ads. Previously, I wrote about how the media was beginning to make McCain and his campaign an issue; about the importance of his putting a Bush/Rove operative in charge of his campaign; and that the big story of the race so far was his terrible performance as a candidate. In one of these posts, I concluded:

it all adds up to a man simply not up to the job of running for -- or actually being -- President of the United States. In a recent appearance, I even surmised that the GOP would become so concerned with his performance that there would start to be a quiet movement to replace him at the Convention with another candidate. This moment may be upon us as the media, and the public now has no choice but to confront that there is a man running for President who seems so out of touch with basic facts, reality, his own voting record that one might even conjecture that it would be a grave risk for the United States to put him in charge of the country.

After a Republican era during which governing always played 2nd fiddle to politics and power - resulting in one of the worst governments in our history - we all hoped McCain would represent a break from the truly disapointing politics of the Bush era. But his performance these last few months shows that his lack of seriousness and knowledge about policy - even running an ad saying that his energy and drilling proposals would immediately address high gas prices when everyone knows this to be, let us say, not true - shows that the McCain candidacy has itself become an extension of this awful Republican era that did so much to harm the national interests of the United States, leaving us less prosperous, less powerful in the world and certainly less free here at home.

In putting Steve Schmidt, a Bush/Rove protege, in charge of his campaign, McCain has told us all exactly what kind of man he has become, and what kind of Presidency we can expect.

In trying to make the campaign about Senator Obama, the McCain campaign has made the national story about themselves, their own integrity and their own performance, and it has become a disapointing and awful spectacle to watch.

Update 344pm: Markos reports on how the McCain campaign has now admitted that the premise behind their "troops" ad was, let us say, just not true.

Update 555pm: And this stumbling campaign today reaches oh so high with their new ad, featuring Paris and Britney. It replaces the ad McCain now acknowledges as untrue and problematic. My my what would Joe Lieberman say about this new one....

Update 945pm: Obama responds

McCain's Ads Continue to Make Things Up

In a post last week, I argued that it was astonishing that U.S. Sen. John McCain's two energy ads he had airing at that time where predicated on things that were - let us say - just not true.

McCain continues this new strategy of just making things up this week. As Andrea Mitchell, a journalist, points out in this video in a story from Huffington Post, McCain's new ad attacking U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for not showing up at a base in Germany is also just not true.

Friends, 3 McCain ads, 3 lies. Why has it been so hard for McCain to play this campaign straight? Why do they feel compelled to make things up? Is the issue environment that bad for Old Man McCain? More evidence of how hard this race has been for the Senator from Arizona.

Update: The Washington Post has a new story running tonight also questioning the veracity of the McCain claim.



Quick '08 Update: No Moles Allowed

- Disclaimer: There isn't a direct mention of John McCain's now extinct mole in this post. However, the implications surrounding it, which Chris Cillizza covers, are.

- Office productivity might rise due to Facebook nixing scrabulous.

- The GOP has launched BarackBook, a mock Facebook site for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. The site's version of news feed highlights some of Obama's more controversial connections, who are all given opposition profiles.

- Jake Tapper highlights a change in U.S. Sen. John McCain's philosohpy on taxes. Whereas McCain has previously ruled out any consideration of a tax increase, he recently stated he wouldn't take payroll taxes off the negotiating table.

- We need some VP speculation. VA Gov. Tim Kaine is in DC, as is Obama. Coincidence? Also, the WSJ's Washington Wire notes that the health plan championed by former MA Gov. Mitt Romney is similar to the one being proposed by Barack Obama. But if that's the case, then according to the WSJ editorial section Obama and Mitt's plans are flawed. Bottom line: picking Mitt might complicate things.

- The Page's Mark Halperin notes Barack Obama's busy, high-profile schedule today. The Pakistani Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the House Democratic Caucus will all sit down with the Senator today.

- In his New York Times column, Bob Herbert gives Barack Obama praise, but wonders if he can close the deal with a solid economic narrative.

- AdAge's Bonnie Fuller discusses Team Obama's Tabloid Strategy.

- The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explains how the Obama campaign is handling John McCain's age as an issue. Clue: he took a few hints from Bill Clinton. Simon's got a great quote in the piece, so check it out!

- Speaking of taking cues, according to the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray:

Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee are expected to unveil a $20 million investment in Hispanic voter mobilization Tuesday that targets most major battleground states.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said the sum is unprecedented for a presidential campaign and represents a show of Democratic confidence that Latino voters could prove pivotal in states including New Mexico and Michigan.

Frank Rich on the Galloping Retreat of the Right

I love Frank Rich, but don't often link or quote him, as I assume most everyone I know is as anxious to read him on Sunday mornings as I am. But today he has a truly compelling essay, one that dives beneath the polls and the day to day media silliness, and looks at how profoundly the right and Bush era policies are in retreat today. I offered some similar thoughts in a post I wrote last week, Is Cheney Tied Up Somewhere?

From Rich:

....This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq's $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That's the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week. The "change" that he can at times wield like a glib marketing gimmick is increasingly becoming a substantive reality - sometimes through Mr. Obama's instigation, sometimes by luck. Obama-branded change is snowballing, whether it's change you happen to believe in or not.

Looking back now, we can see that the fortnight preceding the candidate's flight to Kuwait was like a sequence in an old movie where wind blows away calendar pages to announce an epochal plot turn. First, on July 7, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, dissed Bush dogma by raising the prospect of a withdrawal timetable for our troops. Then, on July 15, Mr. McCain suddenly noticed that more Americans are dying in Afghanistan than Iraq and called for more American forces to be sent there. It was a long-overdue recognition of the obvious that he could no longer avoid: both Robert Gates, the defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had already called for more American troops to battle the resurgent Taliban, echoing the policy proposed by Mr. Obama a year ago.

On July 17 we learned that President Bush, who had labeled direct talks with Iran "appeasement," would send the No. 3 official in the State Department to multilateral nuclear talks with Iran. Lest anyone doubt that the White House had moved away from the rigid stand endorsed by Mr. McCain and toward Mr. Obama's, a former Rumsfeld apparatchik weighed in on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page: "Now Bush Is Appeasing Iran."

Within 24 hours, the White House did another U-turn, endorsing an Iraq withdrawal timetable as long as it was labeled a "general time horizon." In a flash, as Mr. Obama touched down in Kuwait, Mr. Maliki approvingly cited the Democratic candidate by name while laying out a troop-withdrawal calendar of his own that, like Mr. Obama's, would wind down in 2010. On Tuesday, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced a major drawdown of his nation's troops by early 2009.

But it's not merely the foreign policy consensus that is shifting Obama-ward. The Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has now joined another high-profile McCain supporter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in knocking the McCain nostrum that America can drill its way out of its energy crisis. Mr. Pickens, who financed the Swift-boat campaign smearing John Kerry in 2004, was thought to be a sugar daddy for similar assaults against the Democrats this year. Instead, he is underwriting nonpartisan ads promoting wind power and speaks of how he would welcome Al Gore as energy czar if there's an Obama administration.

The Obama stampede is forcing Mr. McCain to surrender on other domestic fronts. After the Democrat ran ads in 14 states berating chief executives who are "making more in 10 minutes" than many workers do in a year, a newly populist Mr. McCain began railing against "corporate greed" - much as he also followed Mr. Obama's example and belatedly endorsed a homeowners' bailout he had at first opposed. Given that Mr. McCain has already used a refitted, hand-me-down Obama campaign slogan ("A Leader You Can Believe In"), it can't be long before he takes up fist bumps. They've become the rage among young (nonterrorist) American businessmen, according to USA Today.

"We have one president at a time," Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party's candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in "Chicago." The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush's de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling. While drama-queen commentators on television last week were busy building up false suspense about the Obama trip - will he make a world-class gaffe? will he have too large an audience in Germany? - few focused on the alarms that Mr. McCain's behavior at home raise about his fitness to be president.

Once again the candidate was making factual errors about the only subject he cares about, imagining an Iraq-Pakistan border and garbling the chronology of the Anbar Awakening. Once again he displayed a tantrum-prone temperament ill-suited to a high-pressure 21st-century presidency. His grim-faced crusade to brand his opponent as a traitor who wants to "lose a war" isn't even a competent impersonation of Joe McCarthy. Mr. McCain comes off instead like the ineffectual Mr. Wilson, the retired neighbor perpetually busting a gasket at the antics of pesky little Dennis the Menace.

The week's most revealing incident occurred on Wednesday when the new, supposedly improved McCain campaign management finalized its grand plan to counter Mr. Obama's Berlin speech with a "Mission Accomplished"-like helicopter landing on an oil rig off Louisiana's coast. The announcement was posted on even as any American with a television could see that Hurricane Dolly was imminent. Needless to say, this bit of theater was almost immediately "postponed" but not before raising the question of whether a McCain administration would be just as hapless in anticipating the next Katrina as the Bush-Brownie storm watch.

When not plotting such stunts, the McCain campaign whines about its lack of press attention like a lover jilted for a younger guy. The McCain camp should be careful what it wishes for. As its relentless goading of Mr. Obama to visit Iraq only ratcheted up anticipation for the Democrat's triumphant trip, so its insistent demand for joint town-hall meetings with Mr. Obama and for more televised chronicling of Mr. McCain's wanderings could be self-inflicted disasters in the making.

Read the whole piece here.

Daily Tracks Show an Obama Bounce

Both Rasmussen and Gallup are picking up real movement towards Senator Obama. In the Gallup track Obama has picked widened his lead from 3 to 7 points in the last few days, and is now at 48%-41%. In the Rasmussen track it is has widened by 6 points, moving to 49%-43%.

Given the contrast between the two campaigns this week this movement isn't suprising. But now we have evidence that Obama's remarkable trip abroad this week - and McCain's awful stumbling week - has impacted the race. This is a lot of movement in a short time, and what is suprising is that this movement started showing up even before the trip has concluded. My guess would have been that if Obama did a get bounce from this week it would have shown up a few days after he returned. The McCain camp has to be very worried this weekend.....

I offered more extended observations on this seminal week in the campaign in this post Thursday, The Presidential Race Feels Like it is Shifting, in this video blog Tuesday, and was quoted in an interesting Reuters piece on Obama's trip abroad that ran internationally on Friday.

Obama Meets Protocol

Granted, this post from Sam Coates was made before today's article in The Times of London highlighting frustrations with British PM Gordon Brown, but it's interesting taken together:

Barack Obama's overnight into Saturday here is a big moment - even though Britain is playing a second tier in rock star's big tour. Still, both Gordon Brown and David Cameron will be looking for a bit of Obamacadabra magic to rub off on them. Who wouldn't.

But protocol in these situations is all, and consequently there is much hand wringing. Gordon Brown is deeply restricted in what he can do with Obama, and there will be no handshakes outside Number 10 because there wasn't one when McCain came over.

There are less restrictions on David Cameron, who will be meeting him afterwards in the Houses of Parliament.

So it caused considerable consternation inside Number 10 when they were told by Obama's advisers that one plan under consideration was that the presumptive Democrat nominee would leave Downing Street and meet David Cameron at the gates of Downing Street. They would walk - yes walk - to Parliament for their meeting. Huge "spontaneous" photo op.

Though this plan was extremely risky for both sides and always seemed unlikely - Downing Street were terrified that this would be seen as a sign of Obama preferment. Which it would. The plan has now, apparently, been bashed on the head after high level intervention.

But that Obama's people were considering this is, to say the least, surprising.


Raising the Bar in Berlin

It was a great speech. 

How has Barack survived this grueling trip and still look so strong, sound so inspiring, cover so much ground? 

I loved the way he talked about the universalism of our founding ideas, and did not present them in the Providential way offered by others.   

More on the speech soon.

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