Obama Resonds To McCain’s Dishonest Campaign

The last several posts have been about the dishonesty of John McCain’s campaign. I’ve noted how fact checkers are reporting on it and on how the newsmedia is reporting on this. More importantly for regaining his lead in the race, Barack Obama is also responding. CNN reports:

Obama, speaking to a crowd Saturday in Manchester, New Hampshire, said, “John McCain wants to have a debate about national security; let’s have that debate. I warned that going into Iraq would distract us from Afghanistan. John McCain cheerleaded for it. John McCain was wrong, and I was right.”

“The McCain-[Sarah] Palin ticket, they don’t want to debate the Obama-Biden ticket on issues because they are running on eight more years of what we’ve just seen. And they know it,” the Democratic presidential nominee said. “As a consequence, what they’re going to spend the next seven, eight weeks doing is trying to distract you.

“They’re going to talk about pigs, and they’re going to talk about lipstick; they’re going to talk about Paris Hilton, they’re going to talk about Britney Spears. They will try to distort my record, and they will try to undermine your trust in what the Democrats intend to do.”

Obama spokesman Bill Burton released this statement:

We will take no lectures from John McCain who is cynically running the sleaziest and least honorable campaign in modern Presidential campaign history. His discredited ads with disgusting lies are running all over the country today. He runs a campaign not worthy of the office he is seeking.

John McCain’s Very Bad Day

This has been a very bad day for John McCain. Besides losing his post-convention lead in the polls as they return to a tie within the margin of error, the media has increasingly discussed the dishonesty of McCain’s campaign. First Read asks if the wheels are coming off of the straight talk express:

For a candidate who prides himself in “straight talk” — and whose political image in part is based on that truth-telling reputation — Saturday proved to be a brutal day for John McCain and his campaign.

First came a front-page New York Times piece noting that McCain “has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth.” There was also an accompanying fact-check of McCain’s latest TV ad, which called it the “latest in a number that resort to a dubious disregard for the facts.”

The Washington Post gave “four Pinnochios” to McCain’s recent assertion on “The View” that Palin never took earmarks as Alaska governor. Then the Boston Globe reported that Palin didn’t really travel inside Iraq as has been claimed. And Bloomberg News said that the McCain camp may not have been exactly truthful in estimating the size of its recent crowds. “Now officials say they can’t substantiate the figures McCain’s aides are claiming.”

To top it off, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said this to the Politico about the increased media scrutiny of the campaign’s factual claims: “We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

Not surprisingly, the Obama camp has pounced on all this, issuing a memo to reporters entitled “Unraveling the myth of the Straight Talk Express.” The memo argues, “Since naming Governor Palin as their vice presidential nominee, the McCain campaign has distorted, distracted, and outright lied to the American people about her record in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that a McCain/Palin Administration would be nothing more than a continuation of the failed Bush policies of the last eight years.”

And it concludes, “While the media is slowly starting to call the McCain campaign on their dishonest tactics, McCain’s staff boasts that they don’t care. As a McCain spokesman told the Politico, ‘We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.'”

The coverage from The Politico certainly does not place the McCain campaign in a very good light as they detail their dishonest tactics and how they have decided to say or do anything in the hopes of winning. Isn’t this the same mistake which doomed Hillary Clinton?

Newspapers around the country are posting articles and editorials on this topic, including one in a key battleground state. The St. Petersburg Times outright uses “the L-word” in an editorial entitled Campaign of Lies  Disgraces McCain:

This nation is facing real challenges on the economy, health care, jobs and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are significant differences between how Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain would address them. But McCain’s recent campaign ads suggest the most vital issues are whether Obama wanted to teach sex education to kindergarten children and whether he derided the Republican’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, by talking about lipstick on a pig.

McCain’s straight talk has become a toxic mix of lies and double-speak. It is leaving a permanent stain on his reputation for integrity, and it is a short-term strategy that eventually will backfire with the very types of independent-thinking voters that were so attracted to him.

The sex education ad says that Obama supported “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten children. Graphics then appear with a voice-over saying: “Learning about sex before learning to read?”

The facts: Obama, while a state lawmaker in Illinois, supported a measure to provide older students with age and developmentally appropriate sex education. Younger children, such as those kindergarten-age, would be taught “age-appropriate” things such as how to protect themselves from sexual predators. The legislation was widely backed by the state PTA and the Illinois Public Health Association. Parents could choose to opt out of any instruction for their children.

But in McCain’s campaign playbook, this responsible legislation becomes fodder for a grotesque distortion as a way to instill fear in voters.

As to the lipstick-on-a-pig controversy, McCain’s campaign has purposely twisted the way Obama used that expression in a recent speech in Virginia. A McCain campaign ad claims that Obama was directing an insult to Palin who, during the Republican National Convention, characterized hockey moms like herself as pit bulls with lipstick.

The truth: Obama used the phrase, which he had used before, to attack McCain’s claim that he’ll reform Washington while retaining the policies of President Bush. After using the lipstick-on-a-pig phrase, Obama said, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still going to stink after eight years.”

McCain’s faux chivalrous outrage over Obama’s purported insult is beneath him. He has been a serious public servant willing to say unpopular truths when he thought it best for the country, but he’s more than willing in this election to put his name on campaign lies. The leader who says he would rather lose an election than lose a war now risks losing his reputation in an attempt to win the White House.

Perhaps the only good news for John McCain today was that Barack Obama canceled his planned appearance on Saturday Night Live due to Hurricane Ike. The bad news for McCain is that much of the country might be watching the season premier of Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey rumored to be returning to play Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin has not been taken seriously in New York as The New York Times ran an editorial on her:

As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible.

It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.

What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.

The idea that Americans want leaders who have none of those things — who are so blindly certain of what Ms. Palin calls “the mission” that they won’t even pause for reflection — shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country.

One of the many bizarre moments in the questioning by ABC News’s Charles Gibson was when Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, excused her lack of international experience by sneering that Americans don’t want “somebody’s big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

We know we were all supposed to think of Joe Biden. But it sure sounded like a good description of Mr. McCain. Those decades of experience earned the Arizona senator the admiration of people in both parties. They are why he was our preferred candidate in the Republican primaries.

The interviews made clear why Americans should worry about Ms. Palin’s thin résumé and lack of experience. Consider her befuddlement when Mr. Gibson referred to President Bush’s “doctrine” and her remark about having insight into Russia because she can see it from her state.

After further criticism of Sarah Palin’s world view, they concluded:

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.

A Busy Day for Fact Checkers

We have probably not had so much dishonesty in government since the days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. For those of you too young to recall those days, we had a Republican who ran for president based upon claims he could end an unpopular war. His running mate was a governor with limited experience who wound up embroiled in ethics probes and who was primarily used as an attack dog. Other than for Spiro Agnew not wearing lipstick, things were pretty much as they are now–except that today we have fact checkers on the internet which expose the lies of such dishonest candidates.

The Fact Checker at The Washington Post gave John McCain Four Pinocchios for “his clumsy attempt to rewrite history” in claiming Sarah Palin had not accepted earmarks as governor of Alaska. They also commented on three errors by Palin in her interview with Charlie Gibson: she was deceptive in hiding her previous denial of the scientific consensus on global warming, she was wrong in her claim that other vice presidential candidates had, like her, not met foreign heads of state, and she was wrong that Russia invaded “a smaller, democratic country unprovoked.”

The non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has been especially busy. Their latest report at Factcheck.org finds that Sarah Palin’s claim that Alaska “produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy” is “not true” and “not even close.” Most likely she is just repeating the same false information she was taught by her handlers from the McCain campaign. John McCain made the same incorrect statement on September 3 in an interview with Charles Gibson and in a September 11 interview with Portland, Maine, news station WCSH6.

This follows a long string of reports of untrue statements from the McCain campaign. The day before the report on energy from Alaska Factcheck.org described how “The McCain-Palin campaign has released a new TV ad that distorts quotes from the Obama campaign. It takes words out of context to make it sound as though the Democratic ticket is belittling Palin.” On September 10 there were two reports. One described McCain’s dishonest ad claiming Obama supported teaching children about sex and warned,  “Don’t believe it.” The other was their report on how the McCain campaign was distorting reports from Factcheck.org itself in an ad.

John and Sarah’s Imaginary Friends

Following the previous post on Sarah Palin’s imaginary adventures, we have the story of John and Sarah’s imaginary friends. While comparatively few people are interested in seeing John McCain, the campaign is reporting record crowds when he brings Palin along. Bloomberg reports that there is some doubt as to the numbers being claimed by the McCain campaign:

In recent days, journalists attending the rallies have been raising questions about the crowd estimates with the campaign. In a story on Sept. 11 about Palin’s attraction for some Virginia women voters, Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher estimated the crowd to be 8,000, not the 23,000 cited by the campaign.

Sarah Palin’s Imaginary Adventures

Another day brings a new listing of lies John McCain and Sarah Palin have been caught in. The above picture of Sarah Palin was taken in Kuwait, not in Iraq.  Although John McCain has been citing an imaginary trip by Sarah Palin to Iraq as evidence that she has something resembling foreign policy experience, The Boston Globe reports, “Sarah Palin’s visit to Iraq in 2007 consisted of a brief stop at a border crossing between Iraq and Kuwait.” The Globe notes:

Following her selection last month as John McCain’s running mate, aides said Palin had traveled to Ireland, Germany, Kuwait, and Iraq to meet with members of the Alaska National Guard. During that trip she was said to have visited a “military outpost” inside Iraq. The campaign has since repeated that Palin’s foreign travel included an excursion into the Iraq battle zone.

This is the second time Palin has been embarrassed by details of her imaginary trips coming out. Previously it was revealed that Palin’s visit to Ireland was limited to a refueling stop there. Not only is the McCain campaign repeating the mistakes that Hillary Clinton made in resorting to a dishonest negative campaign, but they are even looking foolish in a manner reminiscent of Clinton’s claims of having been pinned down by sniper fire in Bosnia.

Update: John and Sarah’s Imaginary Friends

Army Times Notes McCain Is Twisting Obama’s Positions

First Fox News reported on John McCain’s dishonesty. Now Army Times is now showing how John McCain is deceitful:

Has Sen. John McCain renounced his longtime antagonism toward the Army’s Future Combat Systems?

On Sept. 8, the Republican presidential candidate told a rally crowd in Lee’s Summit, Mo., about an Obama video message to a liberal advocacy group.

“He promised them he would, quote, ‘slow our development of Future Combat Systems,’” McCain said, according to wire reports. “This is not a time to slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

Flashback to July, however, when his campaign furnished McCain’s economic plan to The Washington Post, declaring that “there are lots of procurements — Airborne Laser, [C-17] Globemaster, Future Combat System [sic] — that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed.”

In fact, McCain has long criticized the over-budget, behind-schedule FCS program. In 2005, he blasted the Army for allowing the program to balloon to $161 billion, and forced the service to rewrite the main FCS contract.

So where does McCain really stand? Some bloggers and analysts have suggested that he used the term “future combat systems” generically. Obama’s campaign maintains their candidate was speaking specifically about FCS, in which case McCain may be twisting his rival’s words.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute called it deceitful.

“McCain’s interpretation of Obama’s position is typical of the way in which the Republicans have twisted Democratic views in order to undercut their opponents and at the same time obscure the past positions of the Republicans,” Thompson said. “Future Combat Systems is the centerpiece of Army modernization. However, McCain has been more critical of it than anyone else in the chamber. Obama has been much more detailed and thoughtful in his comments about future military investment than McCain’s very superficial statements.”

Officials with the McCain campaign did not return phone calls and emails requesting clarification.

What Obama said

McCain was quoting from a campaign video message from Obama to a liberal group that seeks to cut Pentagon funds by 15 percent.

“I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending,” Obama said in the video, recorded earlier this year. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of Future Combat Systems.”

F. Whitten Peters, a defense adviser for the Obama campaign and former secretary of the Air Force, confirmed that the Democratic candidate was talking about the Army program.

“Obama had said that he wanted to review FCS and he thought that he might want to slow the fielding,” Peters said. “His feeling is there really needs to be an overall strategic review of larger weapon programs to decide which ones are sufficiently important to keep going and which ones may need to be scaled back.”

Another flip-flop from John McCain, and another case of McCain distorting Obama’s views. We cannot risk having him in the White House.

Planned Parenthood Responds to Dishonest McCain Ad


I certainly could not go to bed with the previous post remaining on top of the blog with a McCain ad. Therefore I will add this ad from Planned Parenthood which criticizes John McCain for his recent ad which distorts Obama’s vote on a bill to protect children from abuse.

John McCain on Stem Cells


John McCain is claiming he will not only change Washington but will “improve your health” (but don’t even think of calling on him if your computer crashes or you need to get out an email.) McCain expresses support for stem cells in the radio ad above. The full text reads:

They’re the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change.
John McCain will lead his Congressional allies to improve America’s health.
Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.
Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.
Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.
Stem cell research to help stroke victims.
And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.
Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.
Change is coming.
McCain-Palin and Congressional allies.
The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.
Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.

If John McCain does support an end to the federal ban on funding embryonic stem cell research, then there is one area where we agree, along with Barack Obama. Unfortunately he only refers in general to “stem cell research” and not specifically to embryonic stem cell research, which is important as many conservatives only support adult stem cell research, which at present does not offer the same benefits as embryonic stem cell research.

There is also the problem that Sarah Palin opposes embryonic stem cell research. Besides opposing embryonic stem cell research, Sarah Palin showed she has no more understanding of this issue than she does of foreign policy. When asked about her opinion on the subject Palin said:

My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there. And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we’re getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.

Her first error is the suggestion that embryos are created for stem cell research and then destroyed. Using embryos for stem cell research is not the same as harvesting organs from a baby as opponents of embryonic stem cell research often argue. Besides, the embryos used are ones already existing from fertility treatments and are often discarded if they are not used for embryonic stem cell research. Palin is also incorrect in suggesting that adult stem cell research is an adequate substitute for embryonic stem cell research at present.

Republican Candidates Are Flops In Two Interviews

The Republican ticket might have started out the week leading in the polls thanks to their post-convention bounce, but the week ended with most polls showing a tie. After both Republican candidates performed miserably in separate interviews at the end of the week there is hope they will fall even further from their post-convention highs. (And before the McCain campaign makes any more ridiculous accusations, use of the word high here is unrelated to Wasilla’s reputation as the methamphetamine capital of Alaska. Besides, with Palin as mayor, they had a good excuse.)

Sarah Palin first showed that she has little understanding of foreign policy and then showed that she has little grasp of domestic policy. Listening to her attempt to respond to Charlie Gibson’s question on entitlements I suspected she did not even understand what he meant by entitlements. Conservatives, however, will love how she did. She showed that she shares George Bush’s stubbornness. No matter how many times Gibson would ask a question, she would resist giving a straight answer–especially when she did not understand the question.

One might think that John McCain would have an easier time on The View but he performed so terribly that Andrew Sullivan wrote the “interview just destroyed McCain’s candidacy.” We might not be that lucky, but it didn’t help McCain to perform terribly in an interview on a show primarily watched by women when they were partially responsible for McCain’s transient lead in the polls.

The interviewers were surprisingly persistent in trying to get McCain to commit to an answer regardless of how evasive he was. When McCain tried to pass off appointing anti-choice judges as picking judges who “strictly interpret the constitution,” Whoopie reminded him that the Constitution originally permitted slavery by asking if this meant she’d be returned to slavery. I wish more people responding to such conservative talking points would also note that when Republicans speak of strict interpretation of the Constitution all they really mean is picking judges who agree with them. The founding fathers were the ultimate cosmopolitan liberals of their day and would have little in common with the current Republicans Party.

Whoopie also asked McCain if he believes in separation of church and state. McCain did differ from many conservatives in answering “sure.” This led to asking if picking Sarah Palin gave him a moment of pause.

McCain was also embarrassed by questions regarding Palin’s support for the “bridge to nowhere” and her record of seeking earmarks. When he repeated his sound bite about Palin selling the plane, Barbara Walters noted that “she sold the airplane at a loss.” McCain was asked specifically what he and Palin would reform but could not come up with a better answer than “all of Washington.” Obama can often be vague in speeches which deal more with inspiring language, but whenever an interviewer has asked afterwards for specifics he has been able to provide such details.

McCain was also confronted with the dishonesty in his ads and for his flip-flopping on the issues.  Joy Behar told John McCain that “you used to be more of the Maverick, then you sort of turned.” “In what way?” McCain asked. Behar responded, “You became much more lockstep, I think, with your party, with George Bush’s policies. I don’t see the old John McCain. … I understand why – you want to get elected.”

McCain responded, “I’ve been through this litany before, when I say, ‘OK, what specific area have I ‘changed’?’ Nobody can name it…. I am the same person and I have the same principles.”

McCain is lucky that they did not respond by turning to any one of several blogs which have been compiling lists of his flip-flops. Steve Benen has the most comprehensive listing with seventy-six examples of McCain flip-flops. Think Progress has a list of forty-two flip-flops. Crooks and Liars has a briefer summary:

John Kerry did a good job on McCain

And we have: John McCain’s Evolution on Abortion

John McCain flip flops on Taxes on Social Security

Flip-Flopping On Oil Drilling Proves Lucrative For McCain

Or how about this one: McCain Sets a New Record: 10 Flip-Flops in Two Weeks

Despite his many years in Washington, John McCain is rapidly showing that this has provided him with little understanding of the problems faced by the country. The conventional wisdom when Palin was chosen was that the Democrats had two candidates qualified to be president on their ticket while the Republicans only had one. The more we see of John McCain, the clearer it becomes that the Republicans do not even have one candidate that we can risk putting in the White House.