Hitting Hard on Debatable Points

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Narrator: Barack Obama. Born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.

Obama: In terms of my toughness, look, first of all, I come from Chicago.

Narrator: His economic adviser, William Daley. Lobbyist. Mayor's brother. His money man, Tony Rezko. Client. Patron. Convicted felon. His "political godfather," Emil Jones. Under ethical cloud. His governor, Rod Blagojevich. A legacy of federal and state investigations. With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead.


This John McCain ad is mostly accurate and largely pointless.

The one serious distortion is in claiming that Barack Obama was "born" of the Chicago machine. Obama was actually an independent outsider who challenged the party establishment, both in running for the Illinois Senate and in unsuccessfully opposing U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. Obama did use hardball tactics on occasion but was not embraced by the party apparatus until later in his career.

Three of the four names included here do no damage to the senator from Illinois and serve mainly to reinforce the impression that Obama swims with sharks. Bill Daley may be a lobbyist and the brother of Mayor Richard Daley, but he is a former commerce secretary with a solid reputation. State Sen. Emil Jones gave Obama a boost early in his career, in part by assigning him to shepherd ethics legislation through the legislature. Obama has no connection to allegations that Jones has helped some of his own family members on the state payroll. And while Blagojevich is Obama's governor -- indeed, he is the governor of Oprah Winfrey and Mike Ditka and every other Illinois resident -- he and Obama are not close politically.

Rezko is the exception, a major albatross for Obama. He was a key fundraiser for Obama and sold him a patch of land adjacent to Obama's home -- a deal that the Democratic nominee has called a "boneheaded mistake." But the Chicago businessman, who was convicted of corruption charges in June, was not under investigation at the time of these dealings.

While the ad is a stretch, McCain is trying to tie Obama to the specter of ethically challenged big-city machine politics, undoubtedly hoping the word "Chicago" will turn off suburban and rural voters.


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