September 12th, 2008
08:59 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain, Obama exchange fire in tough new ads, memo

McCain, Obama campaigns released a string of ads Friday.

McCain, Obama campaigns released a string of ads Friday.

(CNN) - The temperature in an already-heated race rose a few degrees Friday in a flurry of overnight ads and memos from the McCain and Obama campaigns accusing each other of unfair attacks, desperation, lies, and gutter politics.

The McCain team called the Obama campaign’s charges "disrespectful." The Obama campaign again said McCain is “out of touch,” and seemed to imply the number of years McCain has been in Washington might be partly to blame, in what could be interpreted as an indirect reference to the Arizona senator’s age - as the Democrat’s campaign manager vowed to respond to attacks with “speed and ferocity.”

Watch: New McCain ad calls Obama 'disrespectful.'

Two days after releasing an ad that portrayed Democrats as a pack of wolves hunting down Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, the McCain team launched a 30-second spot aimed at what they called “the Obama campaign's desperate efforts to attack and smear Governor Sarah Palin.”

Watch: New Obama ad paints McCain as out-of-touch

“He was the world's biggest celebrity, but his star's fading,” says the announcer. “So they lashed out at Sarah Palin. Dismissed her as ‘good looking.’ That backfired, so they said she was doing, ‘what she was told.’ Then desperately called Sarah Palin a liar.

“How disrespectful. And how Governor Sarah Palin proves them wrong, every day.”

But the ad’s implication that Obama, who is shown as the “good looking” quote is relayed, is incorrect. Obama's running mate Sen. Joe Biden offered the remark not as an attack, but as a compliment, joking to a campaign crowd that the "obvious" difference between Palin and himself is that "she's good looking" – a toned-down version of the message sported on buttons worn by Republican delegates at their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, which described the Alaska governor as “hot.”

And as points out, the quote "they said she was doing 'what she was told' appears to have been distorted from its original context. The Obama adviser quoted was not saying Palin was “meekly following orders,” Factcheck says - he was actually softening the accusation that she had lied about Obama’s legislative record by adding that the errors were not necessarily deliberate on her part: "Maybe that's what she was told" about his voting history.

The Obama team released two new ads of its own overnight, along with a tough new memo from campaign manager Devid Plouffe that accused McCain and his campaign of turning to “smears, lies, and cynical attempts to distract from the issues.”

The first ad refers to the number of years McCain has been in Washington to paint him as out of touch: “1982. John McCain goes to Washington,” says the announcer. “Things have changed in the last 26 years. But McCain hasn’t.

“He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail. Still doesn’t understand the economy. And favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class.

“After one President who was out of touch… We just can’t afford more of the same.”

Listen to an Obama campaign conference call on the state of the race

In a July interview with The New York Times, McCain said that he didn't e-mail - "I don't e-mail, I've never felt a particular need to e-mail." He said his aides “go on for me,” but added “I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said Friday that the senator "travels with a laptop, and knows how to use a computer."

The second spot does not mention McCain at all “We’ve heard a lot of talk about change this year. The question is, change to what?” asks Obama himself.

“To me, change is a government that doesn’t let banks and oil companies rip off the American people. Change is when we finally fix health care instead of just talking about it. Change is giving tax breaks to middle class families instead of companies that send jobs overseas. Change is a president who brings people together.

“I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message because this year, change has to be more than a slogan.”

The ads were followed by a related memo from Plouffe.

“Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign, and today we are releasing two new ads that go directly at the fundamental issue in this race: John McCain is out of touch with the American people and unable to address the challenges facing the country in the 21st century and bring about real change, and that Barack Obama is the candidate who will bring about change that works for the middle class,” he wrote.

“We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain’s attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people," Plouffe wrote. "We will not allow John McCain and his band of Karl Rove disciples to make this big election about small things.”

Plouffe said Biden would act as a central attack dog figure. He also tried to goad the media, which has been a target of the McCain campaign, pointing to what he called “discrepancies” in the Republican nominee’s message and reminding reporters that McCain’s manager said the press should treat her with “deference.”

The McCain campaign said its new ad would air in "key states;" the Obama camp also said the two new spots would air in "key states," and on national cable television. Neither would reveal the extent of their ad buys.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (258 Responses)
  1. Yolanda/SA, Tx

    Thanks for sticking with the issues that matter to the American people.

    Enough! is Enough!


    September 12, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  2. American dream is alive and well!!

    I think people are finally starting to see how cynical and desperate the Republicans are!!!


    September 12, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  3. Steven D.

    They are both just saying what they hope will turn a few of the American people away from the other and toward them. The truth is irrelevant. This is politics! Lord, help us!

    September 12, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  4. rbt

    With the distortions and ridiculous attacks coming from McCain, the Obama campaign should just put out 2 ads . . one saying yes. . he's too old, the other quoting all the repubs saying McCain doesn't have the temperment to be president. I know they won't do it, but given the smears and faux outrage whenever Obama mentions the time McCain has spent in WA, might as well actually do what you are being accused of!!!

    September 12, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  5. Big D

    Aren't there any consequences for lying and distorting in ads? McCain's camp has released ad after ad, with lie after lie and distortion after distortion and smear after smear. When is he going to tell us what he's really for? What are his plans and his proposals? What does he plan to do to lead the nation? All I've heard from him is false claims about 'my opponent is a bad guy'. McCain has run his campaign poorly and with a lack of integrity. If he treats the voting public this poorly during a campaign, I don't trust him to serve with integrity either.

    September 12, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  6. SCM DC

    Once again: All that the McCain campaign has to offer is fake outrage. The difference between McCain and Obama was obvious last night at the CNN/Time Magazine Forum: All McCain had to offer was empty rhetoric and boring blah-blah. Obama, however, had new ideas and plans that will make America better. Please America, don't make the mistake to vote for McCain! American cannot survive another 4 years of the SAME!

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 12, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  7. Tupac

    Sounds like McCain campagine is lying. It was Rush Limbaugh that called her good looking; why are they not calling him sexist?

    September 12, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  8. Eric

    The McCain team called the Obama campaign’s charges “disrespectful.”

    Are you kidding me!!! You can dish it out...but you can't take it. Give me a break. Bill Clinton said it best. If you can't take a hit, don't put the pads on!!!

    September 12, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  9. Cooper

    Now you get the message. You fight fire with fire. This is no time for Mr. Nice Guy. You can be nice but do not allow those crooks to steal this election again. Right on target. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Way to go OBAMA.

    September 12, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  10. Eric, Newtown, PA

    McCain is running one of the most dishonorable campaigns in history. In 2000, the Rove-led Bush campaign trashed McCain in South Carolina, but now McCain has Rove's sidekick running his whole operation, and it shows.

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  11. John in Ohio

    So, here's what it looks like to me.

    The Obama campaign said complimentary things about the McCain campaign. Tried to soften some criticism, tried to explain things a bit.

    In return, the McCain campaign kicked the Obama campaign in the nads.

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  12. Freedom

    Who cares about America these days. Mature people attacking each other like dogs. If I were American, fortunately am not, I wouldn't vote and go and live in netherlands.

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  13. Jim

    The double standards and talking out of the side of their mouths by the Republican party is simply baffling! First, they attack Obama calling him a celebrity. Then they turn Palin into their own celebrity, but that's ok because she's a Republican. When Tim Kaine was a potential VP pick for the Democrats, Karl Rove slammed him saying that being the Mayor of Richmond Virginia and Governor of Virginia for only three years wasn't enough experience to be VP...But apparently being the mayor of a town of 9,000 people and Governor for less than three years of the least densely populated state is.

    This is absolutely ridiculous! I'm waiting for the McCain ad that states "the democrats are hunting your future VP like a pack of wolves. But that's ok, because she can shoot them from a helicoptor"

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. rbt

    It seems that everyone is focusing on the factual things that Palin said in the interview. Is anyone analyzing her interview from the perspective of whether the way she said things were indicative of a knowledge of the power of words and whether a VP should or ever would say out loud that we perhaps should go to war with Russia. Any seasoned politico would know how to answer without answering that question. The same with the Israel question, where she just repeated her talking point and couldn't get out from under Gibson's actual question. There was no nuance at all. Isn't that what we should be focusing on. . .and not whether she memorized some facts?

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  15. Canada 4 Obama

    I think these ads that cut to the important issues, what's obama all about and how mccain is out of touch, are excellent! WIth these new ads I think the Obama campaign will be getting back on track to directing the focus off of the unequiped newbie to the matters that really affect you the American people.

    Here's rooting for an awakened America!!

    Obama/Biden -08

    (I SO wish I could vote!!)

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  16. Mariam-Chicago

    Just like Republicans, attacking the other side by taking their words out of context. This election year is about the issues American's face. If anyone recalls the 2004 elections, it was about morals, and personal values...hmm how far did that get us with President Bush?

    Come on people, wake up and see reality. We need someone who will bring our country together, who KNOWS that there is a separation of church and state, who will bring the world together, fund and develop alternative energy, and who will address and help those in need. By far that is Barack Obama. I'm sorry, I won't fall for the "this campaign is about personality, not issues," tell that to all those people who have lost their jobs and healthcare or their home, or lost their child in a meaningless war.

    BARACK Obama 2008! If we don't vote for him, we have lost our country.

    September 12, 2008 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. HC

    HEt there! the people are tired of this nonsense!!! What about the economy? school & education!! more jobs!!!

    Come on, i don't care if the vice presinet is a woman, yellow, bald, whatever. I do not care about the gender and good looks. PLEASE lets talk about serious topics.

    This election should be about getting the best educated and prepared person in the white house, who is capable of putting together a team of adviserswho can help build up the country.

    Why is the media not pressing more on hte important issues? PLEASE there are already enough people out there who are biased, undecided or confused because they are not being fed with the right information.

    The (wrong or right) choice for president will be a burden that not only the USA, but THE WHOLE WORLD will have to deal with the next 4 years!!

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  18. Unbiased Reporting

    Stick to the issues: Who do we TRUST to be our president. McCain, through his ACTIONS, has earned our TRUST. Obama, so far, has only offered WORDS. He may still EARN our TRUST through a track record of ACTIONS to come, but clearly he does not have one yet.

    We all know politicians will say ANYTHING to win... we saw that over the past two years with the battle between Clinton and Obama. We also know that politician's WORDS are empty – to be reversed faster than a stoplight going green to red.... or to be disavowed as "I misspoke" or some other excuse.

    ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. McCain has a track record of ACTIONS. Obama only has WORDS.

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  19. no mccain no palin

    keep milking the POW thing johnny, i wont fight in your wars.

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  20. PUMA-PAC - Murphy

    I am blown away by the idea that American's will vote for the same party that has left us with very scary issues after 8 years. If this government were a business.. it wouldn't be in business anymore.

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  21. Typical White Person

    Timeouts for everyone...

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. Judy from PA

    Obama should never mention the bridge to nowhere. When it was finally nixed they offered to divert the funds to New Orleans and Obama VOTED AGAINST IT!. He voted against New Orleans getting money after Hurricane Katrina.

    September 12, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  23. Sharon



    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  24. lilo

    GO GET THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    OBAMA 08

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  25. Christine

    Shame on you McCain...Shame on you!!!

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
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