Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain's New Commercial Should Drive Voters to Obama

[This article also appears on Huffingtonpost.com. You can access it from my author page here.]

Have you seen John McCain’s latest commercial? I’ll describe it to you:

Over an image of a gas pump in the middle of a lake, a narrator says: “Gas prices four dollars, five dollars. No end in sight. Because some in Washington are still saying ‘no’ to drilling in America. No to independence from foreign oil. Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?”

A photo of Barack Obama is shown side-by-side with a gas pump, while, in the background, we here a crowd chanting, “Obama.” We then see footage of McCain talking to an audience while the narrator continues: “One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets. Don’t hope for more energy. Vote for it. McCain.”

(You can watch it on McCain’s Web site.)

In campaign ads, it is normal for politicians to massage the facts to portray a candidate in the most flattering light possible. But McCain’s latest commercial is such a work of fiction--and a clumsy one at that--that any undecided voter who watches should immediately decide to vote for another candidate.

In an nutshell, McCain’s commercial blames high gas prices on Obama. The spot says that because Obama won’t agree to “drilling in America” and isn’t in favor of “independence from foreign oil,” gas prices are high.

By “drilling in America,” McCain must be talking about Obama’s opposition to lifting the ban on off-shore oil exploration, but to correlate that position with higher gas prices is absolutely absurd. It is well-established that it would take years for any oil to be pumped from drilling off-shore, and even when oil did begin to flow, the effect on pricing would be minimal. The Bush administration’s own report estimates that if drilling were allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, oil production would not begin until 2018, and the effect on pricing would be a reduction of 75 cents a barrel (less than one percent of the current price) in 2025.

In other words, not only is McCain’s claim patently false, it’s ludicrous, beyond anyone’s definition of the truth. He is knowingly being dishonest to the American people (so much for “straight talk”), using a hot-button issue to scare citizens into voting for him based on inaccurate information.

It is also quite clear that Obama is not opposed to “independence from foreign oil.” One of the chapter headings in his energy plan is: “Set America on Path to Oil Independence.” Obama wants to achieve true energy independence that addresses the larger financial, environmental and national security issues involved, not simply engage in gimmicks or quick-fixes that ignore the real dangers and concentrate on squeezing every last drop of oil out of the ground.

What makes the commercial especially outrageous is that it is completely hypocritical. Most analysts blame speculating, made possible by the deregulation of the oil markets, along with increased worldwide consumption, for the spike in oil prices. (Keith Olbermann did an in-depth and detailed report on this issue, which you can watch here.) And who was a leading figure behind the deregulation of the oil markets? Former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who, until a few days ago, was McCain’s chief economic advisor, and was the architect of his economic plan. In his New York Times column on Sunday that assailed McCain's ignorance on economic policy, Frank Rich said that McCain’s “bond” with Gramm “is more scandalous” than Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

So not only is the commercial completely fabricated, but, in fact, it blames Obama for something for which a key member of McCain’s team was far more culpable.

It would be easy to write a short essay on all the reasons why Obama’s position on the drilling issue is far smarter than McCain’s, who is essentially supporting the proposal as a way of courting votes. (After all, McCain supports the gas tax holiday that most economists say would not significantly lower the actual price of gas for consumers.) But anyone watching McCain’s commercial should not even need to engage in that discussion. Rather, the artlessness and bluntness with which the ad states things that are ridiculously false should alert any voter to the lack of intelligence and vision, as well as the desperation, of the McCain campaign. And the ease with which McCain is willing to pander and use dishonesty to pick up votes should also send up red flags for anyone still on the fence.

What is McCain’s next commercial going to be? That Obama is responsible for global warming? The recent outbreak of salmonella? The inability of the Chicago Cubs to win a World Series (after all, Obama IS from Illinois)?

The new McCain ad marks a new low in the campaign. I hope that enough people watching it understand how inaccurate and off-the-wall the claims are.