Monday, August 4, 2008

Swifter Boats and the Ad I'd Like to See

I don't know if you've seen John McCain's latest ad - called "The One" - but it's worth checking out. It takes the whole Obama-is-popular/too-arrogant theme to a near messianic level. Well, maybe not near messianic. I think that line gets crossed. After shot after shot of Obama saying things like "we are the change we have been waiting for" and "this was the moment the rise of the oceans began to cease" the music stops and the narrator intones, "Barack Obama may be the one, but is he ready to lead?"

Never mind that McCain is hardly free of accusations of hubris himself, this ad struck me as amazing for out swifting the previous swift boatings. The commonly used definition of swift boating is turning your opponent's strength into a weakness. In 2004, this meant turning John Kerry's war record into a negative. This was done (and pay attention here) by painting Kerry as having lied about his war record and exaggerated his claims to medals, etc.

That's different from what's being done here. What's being done now by McCain is painting Obama's popularity (one of his strengths) as a negative in itself. He's not saying that Obama is lying about being well-liked (as the original swift boaters did), he's suggesting that Obama is popular and that's a bad thing. The 2004 equivalent would be people saying "Do we really want a war hero in the Oval Office? Is that what we want?"

It's a remarkable bit of campaign chutzpah to take a lot of smiling photos of Obama being cheered by crowds and put it in an ad for his opponent. It seems like the risk of backfiring on that is going to be pretty strong. But I suppose that's just one of the risks of running a respectful campaign.

Anyway, now that McCain is obviously on offense, I think it's time for Obama to start shooting back. So here's the ad I'd like to see.

Open with this shot and then maybe this one. Narrator ominously reads some figures about the worsening economy. Cut to shot of McCain saying he doesn't really know anything about the economy. Narrator says something about the dangerous world we live in. Cut to McCain singing "Bomb bomb Iran." Cut to McCain confusing Shiites and Sunnis. Cut to McCain saying he's fine leaving U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years. Narrator says that people are looking for change. Cut to shot of McCain saying he doesn't really know how to use a laptop computer. Narrator says, "Is he ready to lead?" And fade to black.

McCain says his ads are designed to show the differences between the two candidates. Let's see how he does once those differences really are made clear.

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