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. Phil in KC

    Did we even get past the end of the day? Did we even get one full day of peace? What happened to the positive, issues-based campaign we were promised?
    And since when does calling someone good looking qualify as an attack?

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  2. Jerry in Boston

    How many times do need to point out the blatant LIES of the McCain campaign before people take notice?

    This is just infuriating. How can you debate somebody who repeatedly and shamelessly LIES and gets away with it?

    MSM – You are not drawing enough attention to this. If one side is clearly LYING, then you are under no obligation to give them an equal and balanced platform.

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  3. Yousuf

    Obama, stay on the issues....but don't let McCains attack go unanswered...McCain and Sarah will lie and use small issues and attack the democrats but.....YOU STAY ON THE ISSUE AND DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH LIES..



    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. eric

    Figures. McCain's ads were quickly debunked by Factcheck while Obama's ads take the words right out of McCain's mouth. and did anything catch Palin's interview last night? McCain should have chosen Charlie Gibson for VP. At least then I could have some respect for them. Palin was a total fake, feining seriousness and even knowledge itself in her attempt to bluff her way through the interview. No amount of prep time form Bush's people themselves prepared her enough to answer even simple questions. As an International Relations grad, I know what the Bush doctrine is. I know I have special knowledge because I studied it so I don't expect most other people to know. However, the VP of a 72 year-old multiple cancer survivor ought to know what the foreign policy of the current president has been, especially when that president was a Republican. That isn't too much to ask.

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  5. Ryan in Michigan


    So true so true. If Dems want any chance of winning they need to get tough, get angry, and do it fast.

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  6. boomer babe for Obama

    Clearly McCain wants to keep the attention on Palin, with McCain as the knight in shining armor defending the honor of the damsel in distress.

    The McCain fantasy world grows more extreme every day.

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  7. Barbara

    I can't stand the thoughts of more years of "in your face" attitudes we have received from the current republican admin.

    We have the chance to elect two candidates who actually THINK about the people FIRST.

    Obama/Biden '08 – let's take our country back from corporate and big oil.

    September 12, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  8. Frank

    As evidenced from the news media, the Democrats are throwing anything they can get their hands on, including untrue allegations, against the Republican ticket. And the American people are absolutely disgusted with the Democrat campaign!

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

    Regardless of McCain's performance last night, not that McCain was any better than Obama – doesn't change the fact that his not-so-brilliant choice of VP still doesn't know anything about foreign relations and policies.

    We are at two wars, and this country is too gullible.

    From what I have seen regarding Palin's response to the questions she was asked, McCain really threw in the towel in this fight.

    There is NO WAY that this woman has any business in this election. I DO NOT trust her opinions – not one bit – talk about scary.

    I would rather see the government be "Cool" again. Than have to worry about the United States being attacked and worry about our lives in the hands of someone who is not capable of making clear decisions and someone is doesn't know what the heck a Vice President is suppose to do.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |

    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 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  11. Jeffrey

    To LOL: you said, "the sexism spewing out of the democrats is beyond belief. you think the dnc would have learned after the outrage people had after hillary's brutal treatment." Funny you should mention that. Do a little online searching and you can find Sarah Palin in an interview being asked about Hillary's complaints, during the primary, that attacks against her were sexist. Guess what Gov. Palin's reaction was? That a woman in politics has to expect those kind of attacks, and complaining doesn't advance the cause of women in politics. Cut to now, and if anyone even looks at Palin, they're sexist. These are typical Republican smoke-and-mirror tactics designed to keep you from really considering Palin's shortcomings as a potential VP. Stop hiding behind simple concepts and do some digging into her time as mayor and governor. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Palin in and of herself, let alone because she's running with John McCain, the worst possible pick for President.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  12. Mike in Columbus

    John McCain has sold his soul to be president. I have lost all respect for him. Its sad and disgusting. I thought he was better than this... he's proven me wrong.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  13. Karrie

    As a working woman myself, quite frankly the Republicans ads about Palin are starting to tick me off. Is that all they got? Sarah Palin didn't get where she is today being this poor, defenseless woman getting picked on all the time. She can more then hold her own. I've met women like her in the business world; they are more ruthless then their male counterparts.

    As far as McCain goes, he IS old. He's lived longer than my father did, and my dad was in good health when he keeled over one day and died. Considering how the Presidency ages you, it's a legitimate point.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  14. Rey

    McCain needs to dump this women and stop his lies, she calls the reporter a scenic because she never said that men got nothing to do with global warming activity.

    Fairbanks Daily of Alaska publish this.
    I,m not Al Gore doom and gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climates on human activity.

    She fail badly on that interview.

    McCain where is the person the person you said you will pick to be ready on day one. This is not it.
    And how dare this republicans compare her with Obama.
    This people are a JOKE.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  15. Lori

    If Palin can't handle the heat, then maybe she should get out of the fire. If McCain is a "maverick", his ads are not showing it.

    I care more about the issues then this nonsense. Talk about the issues McCain and maybe I'd listen.

    McCain calling the Obama camp "sexist" is a laugh. He should really look in the mirror.

    September 12, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  16. Oh Poooooleeeezzzze!

    If anyone is a liar it's Obama, he's dong the same ole Washington style his hair getting gray already? Why he's only in the election process...will he make it to the end?

    Stay tuned to Part Three...- As the spin in the election is still spinning by all of the spin doctors...

    What happened to all of the kiss-kiss photo – op-Kumbaya-we are the world – of them at Ground Zero? They're all bare-faced liars...

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  17. TexicoFrom Mexico

    Palin, well she has already started WWIII it seems. Sorry but Georgia is not worth killing 150 million Americans and 200 million Russians. Bold words from someone who is not even Vice President. Also it was funny that she add to add anything after Gibson asked her "have you ever met another head of state". Why can't the answer be just plain no! Not, No but if you look into history you will find that other VP have not either….now give me a break! Yes all former VP's had already met at least one head of state. Matt Damon is right, if the voters of Ohio, Indiana and Virginia cant see through all the GOP shams then something is terribly wrong with us, and maybe we do need to be nuked off the planet.

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Tam in CO

    Enough is Enough. Stick to the issues. Obama/Biden please don't sink to their level. Get back to the issues. After listening to Palin's speech at the Convention, McCain lost my vote. I don't believe someone who is so hate filled belongs in the White House!!

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  19. Ron

    What Obama needs to do is show clips from Bushs 2000 acceptance speech and McCains acceptance speech. The speeches are almost mirrored word for word. Then ask how we can expect change from McCain when he gave the same speech as Bush.

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  20. Jane

    These ads leave me cold.............In fact I as so many other people are sick of the dirty politics, all the lying the half truths all the name calling Why don't you all just stick to what is important!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If all this garbage continues on both sides maybe neither of the parties deserve to win. Maybe it's time to bring in Bob Barr or Ron Paul.

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  21. GE - MD

    When, O lord, When o when are these children going to grow up and stop running a campaign based on trading insults?

    O when o when ???!!!

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

    Well, the thing is that when you change your views on an issue just to mkae it seem like your a reformer, that probably doesn't make you a reformer. Look to the facts:

    1. Sarah Palin backed the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.

    2. Before she was "against" lobbyists, she brought in lobbyists to the town where she was a mayor.

    In essence, it's not unfair to attack Gov. Palin because of the simple fact that maybe she isn't prepared. If you can attack Sen. Obama on not being prepared for the presidency then it is only fair to be able to attack Gov. Palin. It's just more politics as usual by the GOP, trying to get elected, by the sneaky underhanded tactics of lying.

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  23. Kristen

    Notice how they craftily say "How disrespectful." and a vague "she proves them wrong"... I can't help but point out they never say Palin isn't a LIAR. (Finally some truth from the Republicans???)

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  24. John in Ohio

    Pat C: "obama should never mention sarah palin at this point."

    You'll note that he didn't in either of his ads.

    Be cool, he's got this.

    September 12, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  25. JJ

    America: we might as well just get used to the fact that the negative ads will continue until Nov. 4th. The only thing we can do is to educate ourselves on the issues because it is our responsibility to seek and find the truth. Don't rely on anyone but yourself.

    September 12, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
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