By Jonathan Allen
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s campaign manager signaled Friday morning that Obama plans to take a tougher tack in combating Republican John McCain in the final 54 days of the battle for the White House. In a caustic memo to reporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe writes that the campaign will “respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain’s attacks and we will take the fight to him.” It accuses McCain of running a campaign that “has become nothing but a series of smears, lies, and cynical attempts to distract from the issues that matter to the American people.” The memo was released at the same time as two new Obama ads, one of which portrays Obama as an agent of change who will “bring people together” to improve the nation’s health care system and repeal tax breaks for corporations.
The other ad, designed to depict the 72-year-old McCain as old, out of touch with the public and poised to extend President Bush’s policies, says McCain “admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail,” an assertion that cites a July 13, 2008, New York Times interview in which McCain said he is becoming more computer literate with help from his family and friends but prefers his cell phone to e-mail. The ad concludes with the tag line “After one president who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same.” In his memo, Plouffe slams McCain and running mate Sarah Palin, the first-term governor of Alaska as “converts” to the idea of “change.”
“For the entire general election campaign, the McCain campaign has insisted that years in Washington should be the yardstick by which Americans measure their next President,” the memo says. “But in recent days, and with his selection of a running mate with no Washington experience, Sen. McCain has abandoned his core argument. Now he and his strategists have belatedly come to the realization that, after eight disastrous years, the American people are demanding change.” McCain used the word “change” 33 times in a speech in New Orleans kicking off the general election on June 3 when it became clear Obama would be his opponent..
“This is, indeed, a change election. No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically,” McCain said. “But, the choice is between the right change and the wrong change; between going forward and going backward.” The memo also repeats boasts about Obama’s record as a reformer that leave the candidate open to charges of puffery similar to those his campaign has leveled at Palin. “He’s challenged leaders of both parties by passing landmark reforms that took dead aim at the campaign contributions and favors through which corporate lobbyists have rigged the system,” it says.
While Obama focused his legislative energy on the ethics overhaul enacted by Congress last year, he was not the driving force behind its passage as Plouffe suggests – nor did it require challenging the leaders of both parties. The law that was enacted was sponsored by the Senate majority leader and cosponsored by the minority leader. It passed 96-2 on one trip through the Senate and 83-14 on its way to the president, and the final details were negotiated by House and Senate leaders. Plouffe closed his memo by chiding reporters.
“Sen. McCain has called the news media ‘his base” because of the friendly treatment he has received,” Plouffe wrote. “And he undoubtedly is counting on his ‘base’ to overlook the gulf between his newly minted ‘change’ message, and the realities of his record and campaign.”