Two Obama Ads

Surveying a couple of recent stories about Obama’s ads:

(1) Obama’s “Dos Caras” ad: I don’t have access to Rush Limbaugh’s paid archives — I signed up once (the sacrifices I make!), but it was incredibly difficult to un-subscribe, and I have no desire to send any of my perfectly good money to Rush Limbaugh. That means that I cannot check this story out for myself, and see whether, as Jake Tapper says, the Limbaugh quotes that Obama’s ad cites are completely out of context.

I take Jonathan Zasloff’s points:

“McCain has been running perhaps the most right-wing campaign since Robert Taft. He has cozied up to the GOP’s Taliban wing for several months now. He has acknowledged that he would not vote for his own immigration bill if it came up for a vote. Whom do you think he will appoint to key positions that concern immigration?

We know that the one time he had to make an appointment–his running mate–he caved to the social conservative base. One might even call Palin a dittohead.

Tapper seems to acknowledge this, but nevertheless insists that all McCain is saying that the country “has to secure its borders” before embarking on a more comprehensive bill.

This is a cop-out: given the enormous push factors on immigration, to say that he will not move toward a comprehensive solution until illegal immigration is reduced to a trickle is saying that he will never do it.”

But that doesn’t mean the ad itself is not deceptive. If Tapper is right, then Obama should do the right thing and pull it down.

(2) Michael Scherer thinks that Obama’s Social Security ad is deceptive:

“Obama says that McCain voted three times to privatize Social Security, and that he is willing to risk the nation’s retirement program on the risky stock market. Now, it is true that McCain did support President Bush’s effort to privatize a portion of Social Security. But it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.”

There are several things wrong with what Scherer says. First, the ad does not say that McCain is “running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.” It just doesn’t. It says that McCain voted for privatization three times, which he did, and that he told the WSJ that he campaigned for Bush’s plan, which he also did.

Second: I would think that the ad were deceptive had John McCain clearly renounced the idea of privatizing Social Security. But he hasn’t. Just a couple of months ago, he said (in response to a question about Social Security):

“I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money, which is their taxes, and put it in an account which has their name on it.”

That is what is normally referred to as partial privatization. McCain doesn’t always seem to grasp this terminological point. Thus, in this speech from last June, McCain said:

“My friends, I do not and will not privatize Social Security. It is a government program, and it’s necessary, but it’s broken, and we got to tell the American people that we’ve got to fix it, and we’ve got to sit down together the way that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did back in 1983 and fix Social Security. But my friends, I will not privatize Social Security, and it’s not true when I’m accused of that. But I would like for younger workers — younger workers only — to have an opportunity to take a few of their tax dollars — a few of theirs — and maybe put it into an account with their name on it.”

Which is to say: I support what everyone has always referred to as “privatizing Social Security”, but I either don’t like that term or don’t know what it means.

Scherer notes that the plan on John McCain’s website does not support privatization. Last time I checked, this was true. However, while that would normally settle the matter, in McCain’s case it does not. McCain has often said things that are at odds with his web site, things the campaign has had to walk back, but that he has then gone on to repeat. He has done this on a number of issues — the AMT, taxes more generally, kicking Russia out of the G-8, and — you guessed it — Social Security. From the WSJ, last March:

“On Social Security, the Arizona senator says he still backs a system of private retirement accounts that President Bush pushed unsuccessfully, and disowned details of a Social Security proposal on his campaign Web site.”

When a campaign’s website says things that its candidate explicitly disavows, it’s hard to know what the candidate actually thinks. Personally, I would go with the candidate: he knows his own mind better than his advisors do. I certainly don’t think it’s “dodgy” to take the candidate’s word for his own beliefs over his website’s.