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Baby Talk

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The latest in the ad wars draws this assessment from Time's Jay Carney:

"McCain has a new ad attacking Obama 'and his liberal allies' for failing to lead in the midst of the current financial markets crisis. . . . As I and others have said in criticizing some of the McCain campaign's false or distorted assaults on Obama, there are plenty of potential Obama weaknesses that McCain can fairly and legitimately try to exploit.

"First and foremost, of course, is experience. McCain has more, Obama has relatively little. Whether that matters to you as a voter, or whether you think McCain's experience has been good or bad for the country, the fact is that it's fair for McCain to criticize Obama's lack of it.

"Second, it is irrefutably true that Obama hails from the solidly liberal tradition within the Democratic Party. He speaks eloquently about transcending partisanship, but his record of doing so -- both in Illinois and in Washington -- is fairly limited. And most of his policy proposals can be described as liberal or progressive. And so it is certainly fair for McCain to say that if Obama wins, 'liberals' will be in charge of the House, Senate and the White House. I am not saying that would be bad or good for the country, or that such an attack would persuade swing voters in this cycle. But I am saying that it is entirely fair for McCain to attack Obama on this front -- i.e., to go back to the old GOP well and warn about scary liberals and big government."

My critique of the McCain ad is here and of the latest Obama ad here. And by the way, here's proof that most of these ads are fake.

I thought Joe Biden was being refreshingly honest when he told Katie Couric that he would have stopped that Obama ad mocking McCain for not using a computer or sending e-mail if he'd known about it. But then . . . Mary Katherine Ham picks up the tale at the Standard with the headline, "Biden Sent to Re-Education Camp Over Computer Ad":

"There he learned very quickly about the eminent reasonableness of all Obama ads, including the one that derided McCain for his alleged technological ineptitude, an ad which Biden declared 'terrible':

" I was asked about an ad I'd never seen, reacting merely to press reports. As I said right then, I knew there was nothing intentionally personal in the criticism of Senator McCain's views which look backwards not forwards and are out of touch with the new economic challenges we face today. Having now reviewed the ad, it is even more clear to me that given the disgraceful tenor of Senator McCain's ads and their persistent falsehoods, his campaign is in no position to criticize, especially when they continue to distort Barack's votes on an issue as personal as keeping kids safe from sexual predators."

So much for candor.

Glenn Reynolds: "They told me when John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate that we'd be embarrassed by repeated gaffes from an unqualified vice-presidential candidate. And they were right!"

The first debate is just two days away. Is McCain catching a break because the topic is foreign policy?

"There is little doubt that a discussion on foreign policy is playing to McCain's strengths," says the New Republic's Nate Silver. "Even when Obama may be winning a foreign policy argument on points, it probably benefits McCain for foreign policy to be the subject of discussion, period, as it brings his experience, war heroism and purported readiness to the fore . . .

"The question is whether McCain benefits by having the foreign policy debate first. The first debate usually gets better ratings than the last debate. In the eight campaigns since 1960 in which there were multiple presidential debates, the first debate had 60.7 million viewers on average, and the last had 56.3. This year, however, the first debate is on a Friday, which is moderately unusual. There were also Friday debates in 2004 and 1976, and two out of the four debates in 1960 were on a Friday. In each case, these were the lowest-rated debates of the cycle. So I'd expect this to be a wash. Then there's the question of momentum versus expectations-setting . . .

"On the other hand, let's recall 2004, when George W. Bush was completely awful in the first debate (which did produce some momentum for John Kerry) but then only somewhat awful in the second and third debates -- which the press was happy to call comebacks and wins for him since the first debate had so lowered their expectations. If Obama does badly in the foreign policy debate, he'll get maybe 30 cents on the dollar back in terms of lowered expectations for the next two debates. On the other hand, if the foreign policy debate were the last debate, there would be no more debates left, and so Obama would have nowhere to cash in that change."

I think Friday debates make no sense, but I predict a huge audience for this one.


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