It didn’t take long for John McCain’s campaign to take on the look and feel of the Bush campaign of 2004. I admired the Senator for always claiming that he wanted to have civil discourse in campaigns and respect but now I just shake my head at the tone he has adopted since early July. It was earlier this month when McCain brought Steve Schmidt and others from the “Karl Rove School of Campaigning” and the Bush White House into his organization. Now, we have ads from McCain that are misleading at best and downright lies at worst.

Senator McCain’s campaign has adopted the tactics of Karl Rove and his ilk by trying to play on the fears of American voters and by distorting the truth. In fact McCain’s campaign has made many patently false claims like “[Senator] Obama opposes “innovation” on energy policy; that he [Senator Obama] voted 94 times for “higher taxes”; and that [Senator] Obama is personally responsible for rising gasoline prices.” (“Low-Road Express“, The New York Times, July 30, 2008 )

Now, Senator McCain has released (and approved) an ad that shows Senator Obama as a “celebrity.” But, how does he do it? He gives us clips at the beginning of the ad showing snippets of Barack Obama in Berlin with a crowd of 200,000 attendees at a rally. But then we see two quick snippets of Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton? Why? Does McCain’s campaign intimate that Barack Obama is associated with Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton? Is he comparing Mr. Obama as being as no more intelligent than either of the two? What’s the real message? Perhaps it’s something more racist and undignified of Senator McCain.

Nevertheless, after those quick shots we get to listen how Senator Obama is opposed to offshore drilling and in favor of raising taxes on electricity and the announcer then ends with “higher taxes, more foreign oil…that’s the real Barack Obama.” (“Celebrity“, found at John McCain’s Campaign Website) This is utterly misleading. Notice how the announcer didn’t say “higher taxes on electricity” but rather “higher taxes” making the listener walk away with the idea that Barack Obama intends to raise all taxes. It’s hard to argue with this since Mr. Obama did indicate in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News “What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas.” (“Q&A With Sen. Barack Obama,” San Antonio Express-News, 2/19/2008 ) What John McCain doesn’t tell you is the full story. The full question and answer was started around funding of education and was

Q. Have you considered other funding sources, say taxing emerging energy forms, for example, say a penny per kilowatt hour on wind energy?

A. Well, that’s clean energy, and we want to drive down the cost of that, not raise it. We need to give them subsidies so they can start developing that. What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas.

(“Q&A With Sen. Barack Obama,” San Antonio Express-News, 2/19/2008 )

So here we have the truth. McCain’s ad leaves the viewer with the impression that Obama simply wants to raise taxes for the sake of raising taxes (a typical Republican accusation against Democrats). He wants to portray Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal. But in reality the original discussion centered on education and how to fund it but then went off on a bit of a tangent by the questioner by asking if he would support taxing emerging forms of energy like wind energy. Mr. Obama clearly says that we should be supporting clean energy and we want to drive the cost of that down so that it is cost-competitive with current dirty energy. The way to do that is to possibly even the playing field by taxing dirty energy like coal and natural gas. If we are ever going to make renewable energy cost effective and competitive we need to encourage its development and deployment.

But the real mud is the statement “more foreign oil.” Obama opposes offshore oil drilling which will do nothing to help our situation in the near or even long term. Mr. Obama understands that our solution to this energy crisis is not more drilling but rather developing alternative, renewable energy technologies and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels like oil and gas.

If you really want to see what Barack Obama’s platform is with respect to energy I would encourage you to read his Energy Fact Sheet here.

However, the lowest jab that McCain’s “Rovian” campaign has fired involves the fact that Senator Obama canceled a visit with wounded U.S. troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. McCain immediately falsely claimed that this was due to the fact that the hospital would not allow him to bring news cameras along on the trip — a blatant lie. The truth was that Senator Obama canceled it out of respect for the servicemen and women and as Obama’s spokesman Roger Gibbs pointed out, he felt it would be “inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign.” (“McCain criticizes Obama decision to cancel visit to wounded troops“, BostonHerald.com, July 24, 2008 ).

It’s clear that this will be a dirty campaign now that the “Attack of the Karl Rove Clones” has started — at least from the McCain perspective. Hopefully Senator McCain will return to his previously respectable stance of demanding a higher standard of discourse in American politics and we will truly be able to make an choice between two candidates in a clean fashion. However, if Senator McCain continues to utilize the tactics of the Bush 2004 campaign team then we can also expect that should he be elected, he will simply be McBush. And we definitely don’t need that right now.

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