TO: Interested Parties
RE: Setting The Record Straight: Who's Running A Negative Campaign?
DATE: October 23, 2008
In the homestretch of this historic race, Barack Obama and his allies have repeatedly accused John McCain of running a 100 percent negative campaign. Just today in Indiana, Barack Obama made the argument that the issues are too important for the “misleading mail and TV ads” and other negative tactics he attributes to our campaign. He made no mention of his own campaign's conduct.
To set the record straight, it is necessary to look at the facts -- the facts about which candidate has run more negative ads, which candidate injected race into this campaign and which candidate condemned the ugliest smears uttered in this campaign.
Any fair reading of the evidence shows that it is Barack Obama who has run the most negative campaign in recent memory. Barack Obama has run more negative ads than any candidate in history. Barack Obama has refused to personally condemn the most vicious smears in this campaign, including even a statement by one of his most prominent supporters linking Senator McCain to the segregationist policies of George Wallace and the murder of four little girls. Barack Obama is responsible for raising the specter of race in this election. And it was Barack Obama who went back on his word and refused John McCain's offer to do weekly town hall meetings that would raise the level and tone of the debate in this campaign.
The evidence of Barack Obama's negative campaign is irrefutable:
Negative TV Ads. While Barack Obama tells the people of Indiana today that he detests negative ads, his campaign is spending more than any other presidential candidate in history to launch negative, false and misleading ads against John McCain. According to figures from Campaign Media Analysis Group, in the final stretch of this campaign -- from September 12 to October 18 -- Barack Obama ran 119,101 negative ads costing more than $65 million. For that time period, the Obama campaign spent nearly $30 million more than the McCain-Palin campaign on negative ads. That $30 million represents 38,000 negative ads. The breakdown is even more staggering in the period from October 12 to 18. In that seven-day period, Barack Obama spent over $22 million for more than 37,000 negative ads -- that's more than twice the amount spent on positive ads and almost three times the amount that the McCain-Palin campaign spent on such ads.
Misleading And Distorted TV Ads. It is ironic that Barack Obama would decry the role of “misleading” ads in this election since that is the word most commonly associated with his own television ads. Across the country, Barack Obama's national and state-specific television and radio ads have been called “misleading.” Even the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that despite his claims of “respond[ing] with the truth,” Barack Obama has run ads that are “dubious” in nature and that he is “hardly immune from criticism about misleading advertising.”
· This month, Barack Obama has run a TV ad <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czo0w3Xs3NM> falsely claiming that McCain will cut Social Security benefits for seniors that was called <http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/scaring_seniors.html> “a falsehood sure to frighten seniors who rely on their Social Security checks.”
· Last month, Barack Obama ran a TV ad <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry9LnAazwMg=related <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry9LnAazwMg&feature=related> > so badly distorting McCain's position on immigration that even the New York Times -- in a statement against interest -- called it “fraudulent” and CNN's Candy Crowley called it “absolutely and directly wrong.”
· Last month, Barack Obama ran a radio ad <http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/737/> stating that McCain opposes stem cell research, which is 100 percent false, because McCain strongly supports stem cell research, having bucked the Bush administration and his own party on the issue.
In September alone, Barack Obama ran “at least five commercials that have been criticized as misleading or untruthful against Mr. McCain's positions.” His attack ads on Social Security, immigration, education, health care, taxes, Medicare, stem cell research and shipping jobs overseas have all been called misleading and distorted.
Refusing To Condemn Smears. One measure of how these two candidates have waged their campaigns is how the candidates have personally reacted when their supporters step out of line. Barack Obama has consistently refused to personally condemn the many vicious smears leveled against John McCain by Obama supporters during this election. By contrast, John McCain has consistently matched his words about running a respectful campaign with deeds by personally condemning inappropriate and offensive attacks on Barack Obama. Stretching back to the beginning of the general election this past spring, Obama campaign surrogates and supporters have leveled vicious and despicable attacks against John McCain's character, and Barack Obama has repeatedly refused to personally condemn these smears. From Obama surrogate Wesley Clark demeaning John McCain's military service, to Obama supporter Ed Schultz calling McCain a “warmonger,” to Obama advisers Tony McPeak and Rand Beers demeaning McCain's service as a POW, Barack Obama never personally condemned any of these attacks. By contrast, early in this campaign, John McCain personally and immediately condemned a supporter's comments using Barack Obama's middle name in an inappropriate matter, and more recently John McCain defended Senator Obama from a supporter who misstated Senator Obama's ethnicity.
Most disturbing, however, was Barack Obama's refusal to personally condemn comments made by his supporter Congressman John Lewis, who linked John McCain to the segregationist policies of George Wallace and the murder of four little girls in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement. Given the chance to personally condemn those comments during a presidential debate in New York on national television, Barack Obama refused.
Introducing The Specter Of Race, Age And Religion. Further, it was Barack Obama who introduced the specter of race into this election by claiming, on three occasions in one day in July, that John McCain would use Obama's race -- the fact that Obama “doesn't look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills” -- in an attempt to scare voters. Even the national press called Obama out for playing the race card, and the Washington Post said Obama's charge against the McCain campaign were wrong. The Obama campaign has further coordinated a shameless and offensive campaign to stoke fears about John McCain's age. Obama and his senior advisers have repeatedly referred to McCain as “erratic,” saying he “misplaced the keys” and suggesting he drives on the sidewalk. As ABC News recently characterized the Obama campaign's message on this issue: “If he's driving a car, get off the sidewalk. Misplaced the keys to his houses. Losing his bearings. A half century of service. Erratic. Uncertain. Confused. First came to Washington in 1982. You get the picture.” Most recently, Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee tried to tag the McCain campaign with misleading attacks about Barack Obama's religion by mockingly asking McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, “Are you a Muslim?”
Changing The Tone Of This Campaign. In June of this year, one day after Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination, John McCain proposed that he and Barack Obama join for a series of 10 joint town hall meetings – one per week through the summer to the party conventions. The idea was to bring the two candidates together to discuss the major issues of the day “without the empty soundbites and media-filtered exchanges that dominate our elections,” as Senator McCain said. Outside observers praised the possibility of unfiltered town hall meetings raising the dialogue of the campaign, as esteemed political veteran David Broder called it the “largest step toward improving the content of the presidential election” in 2008. Barack Obama, who had already said he would debate John McCain “anytime, anywhere,” called McCain's proposal a “great idea” and “something that I am going to welcome.” But no sooner did Barack Obama praise the idea than he killed it. The Obama campaign refused the good faith offer for a series of town hall meetings that held the promise of fundamentally raising the dialogue of this campaign.
The reality is that by any measure -- the ads he's run, the conduct of his campaign and his own actions in this race -- Barack Obama has run the most negative campaign in decades. This fact has been serially ignored by many in the mainstream media, who have preferred to cover other aspects of Barack Obama's campaign -- be they his huge fundraising hauls, big crowds, sophisticated get-out-the-vote efforts or the historic nature of his campaign. But at the end of the day, it's important to set the record straight about Barack Obama's negative campaign, and the immense hypocrisy of his claims about our campaign when he's the real culprit in this race.