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McCain Spot Distorts Obama Comment About Military

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

THE AD

Narrator: Who is Barack Obama? He says our troops in Afghanistan are -- (Barack Obama:)". . . just air-raiding villages and killing civilians." (Narrator:) How dishonorable. Congressional liberals voted repeatedly to cut off funding to our active troops. Increasing the risk on their lives. How dangerous. Obama and congressional liberals. Too risky for America.

ANALYSIS

This John McCain ad blatantly distorts Barack Obama's words in an effort to paint him as callous about the role of the U.S. military. The commercial truncates a comment that Obama made to a voter in New Hampshire in August 2007. According to the Associated Press, the senator from Illinois brought up Afghanistan when asked whether he would withdraw troops from Iraq to fight terrorism elsewhere: "We've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." In short, Obama was saying he wanted to avoid just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, not that this was all that American troops were doing. His meaning was the opposite of what is portrayed in this spot. Civilian casualties have been rising in Afghanistan this year, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month apologized for U.S. airstrikes that have killed civilians.

Obama voted against Republican legislation to continue an open-ended commitment in Iraq after President Bush vetoed a Democratic bill to link funding to a timetable for withdrawal. He did not intend to cut off funding for American troops any more than McCain did in urging Bush to reject the Democratic measure. The commercial represents an effort to turn the campaign dialogue from the economy to foreign policy, a stronger issue for the senator from Arizona. By having the female narrator begin with the words "Who is Barack Obama?" the ad attempts to reinforce doubts about the Democratic nominee as a lesser-known, untested and ultimately risky figure. And by picturing Obama with such congressional leaders as Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Charles B. Rangel, the McCain campaign makes a more subtle argument for the first time. Because both houses of Congress are considered likely to remain in Democratic hands, the implication is that a vote for Obama would give the party unchecked power, while a McCain White House would act as a brake against liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Video of this ad can be found at www.washingtonpost.com/politics.

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