Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How not to attack McCain on the Economy

Last night I saw Obama's new economic ad for the first time:

Funnily enough, Sirota had the same reaction that I did:

I agree that McCain represents a third Bush term on economic and national security issues, and I agree that it is an outrage that we are spending $10 billion a month on the war. But there's something troublingly imperialistic about the underlying message of this ad.

About 15 seconds into the ad, the Obama campaign starts criticizing Iraq for selling oil and making money off those sales - as if that is an outrage, as if, in fact, we should be able to simply take their oil for free.

Don't get me wrong - I think multinational oil companies are gouging consumers and profiteering off a global energy crisis, I think that's awful, and I think we need to much better regulate those companies. But I don't think its bad that the nation of Iraq is making money off a natural resource that it owns, and I don't think that Iraq should have to give away that natural resource to anyone for free.

Yeah, this ad sounds more like a Joe Biden speech than what we've heard from Obama during this cycle. Obama was one of the best at avoiding discussing Iraq in colonial terms during the primary, so let's hope this isn't a trend. But let's ignore the colonial rhetoric for a minute.

The ad straight up sucks, and does nothing to present a clear message or line of attack. There's just too much there to digest, and all of it goes in different directions. The ad mentions all of these topics in 30 seconds:
  • John McCain is like Bush on the Economy
  • Spending money on Iraq
  • The fact that Iraq thinks it's a sovereign nation that can profit off it's own oil
  • The high price of oil in general
  • Getting out of Iraq
  • Better schools
  • No more oil company tax breaks.
Better Schools?!?!? What the fuck is that doing in there? You should include 3 of these at most, and they all need to be directly related, or connected with some common theme. What's the common theme? After watching the ad 5 or 6 times I still couldn't tell you. Something about McCain, Bush, those greedy Iraqis, and Barack will fight back with better schools and taxing oil companies. Not exactly a concise message.

This isn't rocket science, this is attacking John McCain on the economy. This should be as easy as it gets. At worst it's appealing to the lowest common denominator by using colonial rhetoric to place blame on a country that we destroyed. At best, it's a terrible ad that tries to do put 6 or 7 different attacks and remedies (Better schools?!?!??!) in 30 seconds, and makes no sense as a result. Neither one is acceptable.


  1. Here's a thought, how about a "Train of Thought" video contest...see who can make the best progressive ad against McCain..though not specifically or explicitly heralding Obama's plan...hell, its not like most of us progressives really agree with his stuff as it is now anyways

  2. better schools are great.

    but if i start seeing better schools in his energy policy ads, i'm gonna crap construction material.

  3. @Caypso: I love the idea. If videos are too time consuming I think we should at least have a poster contest before the election. Jack, RB and a few others had a poster contest in 2004 based on the Bush 04 team's brilliant idea to let you make your own Bush poster with your own slogan on their site. Love the idea for making our own media to counter mccain, it's something we should definitely get into in the coming weeks.

    @nik0: You know, after I put this up I started realizing how many bad ads just add in "better schools" for the hell of it. It must just be standard procedure for crappy ad makers.

  4. I also think a video contest would be a great idea, even if we only end up with one or two due to the amount of work involved. For myself, unfortunately, if I'm working with video, it should probably be this damned movie project I started two years ago and am still wrapping up – but maybe we could keep a running list of useful youtube videos of McCain to get things started. In general, I feel like the Real McCain does an awesome job with video design, though they're too long and I think entirely online.

    There's also this beautiful tool for easily ripping potential poster images from google.

    Word to the complaints about putting education in that list. Aside from making no sense, if our candidates were serious about improving education then they'd be talking about removing the interference of fundamentalist "christianity" on the public curriculum... but given the degree to which religion is being taken more seriously in this campaign, I'm not expecting any of that.

  5. As per Atrios's reminder, there's this unbelievable gem. McCain at an AFL-CIO gathering: