By Stan Isaacs
The ad is diabolically brilliant. It is a masterful stroke by the sly geniuses behind the John McCain campaign. And it probably is the reason many all-too gullible people are now telling pollsters they prefer McCain to Barack Obama.
The ad running on national television starts out with an announcer saying, “Washington is broken.” Now, if the announcer went on to say, “Barack Obama knows it,” that would be a ten-strike—and true. But the announcer actually says, “John McCain knows it” and the voice adds, “We’re worse off than we were four years ago.” And he promises that McCain will fix it.
This is chutzpah, yes. But it is brilliant because it is so effective in turning the truth on its head. This is in the Vince Lombardi tradition of taking the attack to your opponent’s strength. Lombardi, as coach of the Green Bay Packers, would determine the strength of the other team and run his team at it. The Packers thrived as the best team in football under Lombardi.
The Republicans pulled off this strategy four years ago to damage John Kerry, the Democratic challenger. Kerry was a hero fighting in the Vietnam war whereas George W (“What’s not to dislike about him?) Bush ducked serving in the war. Vietnam was Kerry’s strength, Bush’s weakness. Yet the Republicans succeeded to pull off a campaign—the Swift Boat lies—to distort Kerry’s service and paint him as a traitor.
Now, the strongest argument Barack Obama has going for him in this election is the reality that McCain represents a continuation of Bush’s disastrous policies, because he has essentially the same economic program as Bush. He supported the war that has the nation in such dire straits. So the Republicans, resorting to the Lombardi strategy, have usurped the Obama strength by having McCain distancing himself from Bush by saying Washington is broken. This reeks of Karl Rove and his ilk, Bush’s demon attackers now playing on McCain’s team.
I suggest that the Democrats copy that ad. To wit: have a similar voice say: “Washington is broken. Barack Obama knows it. We’re worse off than we were four years ago.” Then Obama can quote the cost of the Bush-McCain war in Iraq, and what it and Republican economic policies have done to the country. While I am so grandiosely giving advice to the Obama people, let me say that they didn’t have to grovel before diehard supporters of Hillary Clinton to get those votes on election day. All the Obama strategists have to do is get out in the open once and for all the joke that McCain told at a Republican dinner in 1998. He said, “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno” Chelsea Clinton was 18 years old at the time. Spread this joke around and see if the fanatic Clintonites can still say they have the stomach to vote for supposedly nice-guy McCain.
There are other things about McCain that inspired a deft cartoon by Tony Auth of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Auth has McCain pumping up the tires of McCain’s “Empty Talk Express” with tires labeled, “lies”, “silliness” and “distortions.” There was McCain’s walk through a Baghdad market he described as safe, but which pictures later showed him being protected by 100 soldiers and helicopters; . There are the $520 Ferragamo shoes worn by the man who calls Obama “an elitist.” There are his flip-flops on radicals Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson; on taxes; and there are his many flubs, like not knowing a Sunni from a Shiite.
There is also lurking in the darkness of the internet a devilish claim that has about as much substance as the Swift Boat lies against Kerry. It is the broadside that McCain, as a reckless navy pilot, crashed five jets and was responsible for setting off a rocket from his plane that resulted in a fire on the super carrier USS Forrestal that resulted in the death of more than 100 Forrestal crewmen. . Now, the Democrats wouldn’t be unscrupulous enough to spread such a story. And if the Republicans had something like that to launch, they wouldn’t use it either--or would they?
This brings us back to Washington being broken. Quickie campaign ads carry the message better than thoughtful preaching to the choir. Can the Democrats shoot down that “McCain can fix broken Washington” ad?