Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 5, 2008

FUNDING FOR OUR TROOPS.... Lindsey Graham last night blasted Barack Obama for having "voted to cut off funding for our troops." A day earlier, Joe Lieberman chastised Obama for voting to "cut off funding for our troops on the ground." Both the McCain campaign and the RNC have run ads making the same claim.

It's probably worth taking a moment to set the record straight here.

When Obama voted against a war supplemental spending bill, it was the only option available to war opponents to change the administration's policy. Obama's position was endorsed by most Americans -- polls showed strong support at the time in favor of cutting off funding. McCain, Lieberman, and Graham, obviously, disagreed.

Except when they didn't. Last year, Senate Democrats passed another supplemental spending bill with funding for the troops that included a withdrawal timeline. McCain, Lieberman, and Graham voted against funding the troops, and urged the president to veto funding for the troops, which he did.

Does this mean McCain wanted to deliberately undermine U.S. troops during a war? That he somehow doesn't support the military? No, it means he supported troop funding when he liked the conditions of the spending bill, and opposed troop funding when he didn't. As it happens, Obama did the exact same thing, only in support of different conditions.

In July, when the RNC began airing ads on the subject, the Obama campaign issued a response:

"There are honest differences between Senator Obama's position on Iraq and Senator McCain's, but there's no question that both support our troops. Under the RNC's definition, John McCain would have also chosen politics over our military when he urged George Bush to veto funding for the troops, and we know that's not the case. This is the sort of distasteful and misleading attack from the Rove playbook that the American people are tired of, that does nothing to give our troops the equipment they need, and distracts from the honest debate we should be having about how we can keep the country secure."

What's interesting about this was that Obama could very easily turn around and say, "I can't believe John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops in the middle of a war. How outrageous." According to the standards set by Republicans, that statement would be entirely accurate.

But Obama has decided instead to talk to voters like adults. Obama didn't cut off funding for the troops; McCain didn't cut off funding for the troops; no one actually voted to cut off funding for the troops. McCain, Lieberman, Graham, and the RNC simply have to count on public ignorance, and repeat a line they know is false.

There's an inherent risk in Obama's approach. Treating voters like grown-ups, and expecting them to see through bogus talking points, is a gamble. We'll see if it works.

Steve Benen 9:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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We'll see if it works.

It will work if there are enough grown-ups out there.

I'm skeptical, but then again, children and teenagers usually make a lot more noise than adults. Maybe we've missed the grown-ups because their voices have been drowned out.

Posted by: lobbygow on September 5, 2008 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

I think history shows that the public at large are willing thralls, and are best controlled with occult symbols, myths, strawmen, and pleasing lies. Also demonizing your opponents and elevating yourself to sainthood is efficacious. This whole, the people are grownup--the people have critical reasoning skills--is truly revolutionary. The Vatican made Galileo retract, consider.

Posted by: c6Logic on September 5, 2008 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Obama needs more surrogates out there to point out that McCain (1) Voted to cut veteran's healthcare and (2) Urged Bush to veto funds for troops.

Yes, Obama is betting on not just that Americans are adults, but that his talking to Americans as adults will be HEARD over the braindead media horserace cacophony. Americans will respond to reason, but only if they have access to those reasoned arguments.

Posted by: Ohioan on September 5, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

The response is way too long and wordy. If you want it to cut through, it'll need to be much shorter and pithier.

One of McCain's strengths is the "straight talk" malarkey. Start calling him on his lies (not using professor-speak) and don't stop.

The Republicans will tell any lie to cling to power. It's time we stopped letting them.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 5, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

The problem lies with the so called grownups. We got 8 years of these people, remember?

Posted by: anon on September 5, 2008 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

This is actually a good example of the problem with fighting fire with fire. McCain can say these things and the media will parrot the line that everyone knows he is a straight talker. If Obama does it, they line up the fact checkers, while ignoring the silimar Republican claims.

Posted by: Danp on September 5, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

No one doubts that McCain supports the troops.

Are you sure about that? Have you asked the troops? After all, McCain voted against giving them benefits because it might discourage them from sticking around for a 12th rotation into Iraq. And this was just a few months ago.

You don't pay much attention, it seems.

Posted by: Jennifer on September 5, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Treating voters like grown-ups, and expecting them to see through bogus talking points, is a gamble.

Seeing as to how badly things have gone in the crapper since January of 2001, it is totally worth it.

Posted by: GuyFromOhio on September 5, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think Obama needs to run an ad that does both. Clarifies that according to McCain's standard he also voted to cut of funding for the troops; while Obama considered it fiscally and morally irresponsible to continue funding the War in Iraq using borrowed money without a staged withdrawal plan. No more unfunded open-ended commitments without a clear definition of success under an Obama administration.

Posted by: Brian on September 5, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

It sucks to be an Obama supporter. - Orwell

But ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: Danp on September 5, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Treating "low information voters" as adults hasn't worked in a presidential election in almost a decade. Obama's camp must plainly state : So did McCain. Then let McAce's guys try , through nuance to convince stupid people that Obama is wrong.

Don't place it in the muddle of a paragraph. Place it in an add on TV. Move-on could do it perfectly. Show footage of McAce and Grahm and LIEberman and the "Bill" and their vote. Voice-over says: McCain voted to not supply the troops on this bill:Google it!

Then let Rove try to straighten it out with Alabama voters.

Posted by: Stevio on September 5, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see, we can't go sleazy and dasn't expect the electorate to follow arguments above a third grade level, so what does that leave? The Messiah(or at least less evil and stupid) pitch? I know personality! I knew you was a closet thug, Steve.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on September 5, 2008 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I wonder if it might be worth it to attack every now and then. The electorate, as a whole, is not very bright, even the ones who are supposed to be. Take this, for example: I'm in the military. I was talking to another fellow military member who accused the Bush administration of high crimes by lying to get us into Iraq, manipulating the intelligence, and going to war for oil. He also admits that the last 8 years have not been that great. All of that being said, he is STILL voting for McCain. I don't understand it. His rationalizations about it don't even make sense. I sure do wish somebody could explain this stuff to me, because I am befuddled.

Posted by: Ben on September 5, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

The republican convention has made it plain. This election is to be a cultural war of ordinary americans against those elites. To their genius they never have to say n*gg*r or uppidty to refer to Obama's history.

If history is any guide the playbook for Democarts will be to hit back immediately, like Clinton and Gore did. Obama's appeal to reason is a tepid response. He is allowing the attacks to gain traction and will end up like Kerry and Dukakas when it is too late to rspond.

Posted by: Jsbas on September 5, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Verbosity is the Democratic cross to bear.

That paragraph from Obama could have been expressed as: "Senator McCain and I have both, at times, voted against appropriations bills that contained funding for troops."

Obama and Biden should be leading with succinct summary statements, and adding explanation in the middle.

Open and close with something short, sweet, and to the point.

And, yes, you do have to say it twice. That is how our memory works. What you learn has to be repeated about 20 seconds later to nudge it towards the long-term memory banks.

Posted by: serial catowner on September 5, 2008 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I just heard this morning a few people talking about how Palin's teleprompter malfunctioned during her speech Wednesday. Obviously, they had heard the lie and that's all they'd heard. Let's face it, one side of this debate is institutionally favored by the mass media with its penchant for gotcha journalism and drama queen narratives. It's awfully hard to think the Democrats are going to win on the merits when the merits don't really matter.

Posted by: David W. on September 5, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Video talking points, please. Video of Clan McCain "speechifying" against the Dem supplemental, and urging Das Boosch to veto it.

And then play it over...and over...and over again until it hurts the GOPers forever....

Posted by: Steve on September 5, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. McCain, the pandering maverick, has proven he will say whatever he thinks the crowd wants to hear. He claimed to be against torture, then voted against outlawing it and urged Bush to veto the law banning it. If McCain were actually against torture and voted that way, the bill would have been veto proof.

As a former fan of Carpetbagger, it seems strange here to have someone constantly spouting doublespeak while calling himself "Orwell". I would suggest "Orwell" read past the cover of a book before assuming the name of the author.

Also, do you consult with the American people before you speak for them? I suggest "Orwell" is merely a master of projection.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on September 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

"I sure do wish somebody could explain this stuff to me, because I am befuddled." -Ben

Does racism still need explaining in 2008? My bet is that if you pressed people who purport to hate Bush and are upset by the last eight years, yet say they will vote for McCain, the explanation would begin, "Well, I'm not racist, but..." about 90 percent of the time.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on September 5, 2008 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Bloody amazing. Literally everything they say is a lie... they don't even bat an eye.

Not surprising I guess... the Harvard Business School (I think anyway) did a study some years back investigating what skills were most important for success in business.

Guess what the most important skill was... the ability to lie convincingly.

Posted by: Buford on September 5, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, am more than a little bit tired of this "support the troops" mantra.

While I doubt that Obama or Biden have voted to cut funding, it would be ever so refreshing if somebody would.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on September 5, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

EVERY SHOULD WATCH THIS creepy promotional video for Masters Commission workshop at Wasilla Assembly of God (Sarah Palin's longtime church)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJnhRhJW35o


When you watch this video REMEMBER...this was Sarah Palin's church for nearly her entire church.

The man with in the leather jacket donning a goatee was Sarah Palin's pastor from 1999 till 2002.

She continues to have close ties to this church and is invoilved with workshops there.

Posted by: edreed on September 5, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I am not sure blaming "low information" voters for being ignorant is very constructive. One of my old professors used to repeat over and over "ignorance can be cured." All we have to do is tell the truth over and over. Call the Republicans on their lies every time one of the bastard's lie. Encourage the media to do the same. (That is fraught with danger if we tell a falsehood.)

Frame Republicans as liars (not hard because they are) goes a long way to solving the problem.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 5, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Yea... but, this is a problem with both candidates.

In an AP story, Obama yesterday in his York, PA speech said...

"You haven't heard a word about how we're going to deal with any aspect of the economy that is affecting you and your pocketbook day-to-day. Haven't heard a word about it. I'm not exaggerating. Literally, two nights, they have not said a word about it."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-ap-cvn-obama,0,7376983.story

Although little of substance was said during the convention speeches, let's be real... not "a word"? This is not messaging to the "grown-ups", elites, and "informed" voters as referenced above, it is aimed at the same groups that would absorb the message of voting against funding for the troops.

It's politics, pure and simple.

Posted by: pencarrow on September 5, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

The Obama campaign is in danger of riding its high-minded refusal to attack McCain and Palin (on dozens of potent issues) all the way to a close but still historic defeat in November. David Axelrod is the General McClellan on Obama's staff.

Posted by: bluestatedon on September 5, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

It will not work and there are plenty of adults!

Posted by: Reality on September 5, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Steve I dont think it matters. This election is about the economy and low info voters want answers for their wallets and pocketbooks. Graham's lame barbs buried in the mediocrity of the Republican noise machine? Not going to have much discernible impact imho

Posted by: jesse on September 5, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I second those who are worried about Obama's soft approach to McCain and Palin, but maybe we aren't seeing the whole picture, particularly the ground game. I thought the race was tightening and then McCain takes a radical gamble and picks Palin. You don't do that if you think you can win. Obama's internal polling must be showing that they don't have to go there. One thing to look for is if they step up the attack, that might signal that they are worried. My guess is that if they believe it is actually getting close, they will push back harder. My worry is that (with the lag time of a couple of weeks) there might not be enough time for the push back to take effect. Plus, I am just sick of hearing Republican's mouth off. I don't really have the heart for bi-partisan, post-partisanship anymore. A pox on their houses.

Posted by: wsf1964 on September 5, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of treating people like adults: has anyone noticed sp is almost in the same boat as brittney when she was up-graded from the mouse house and used to sell music and stuff?
She was good at it, still is.They never mentioned to her they were using her mmmm looks to help get the job done.
Think they can keep this one distracted long enough to memorize her lines?
Really, tell us what she has to offer? Really. What? Mainly that she is blinded by the light and trainable.
And in a few weeks what she spills out, who will be that person spilling?
What will be left of the person originally picked?
And if that person was what was originally picked because of who she was, why does she already need a complete tune-up?
Of course everyone already knows this is happening but why? Just to see how good at it she can be?
Is everyone going to sit back and wait for her to come out swinging?
One thing for all her hunting friends to consider: she uses real bullets not bird shot. She is deadly.

Posted by: johnsnottoodistracted on September 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

The last Democratic presidential nominee who took the high road in the campaign trail was John Kerry. I predict Obama's approach will work just as well for him.

Posted by: moe99 on September 5, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

The Obama campaign is in danger of riding its high-minded refusal to attack McCain and Palin (on dozens of potent issues)

The Obama campaign has been airing a tough and effective attack ad where I live - showing McCain and Bush dancing together to a jingle.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on September 5, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Impeachment proceedings might have also been an option to change the W. regime's policies, but Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership do not want to change the W. regime's policies.

Posted by: Brojo on September 5, 2008 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats have many arrows in their quiver and it would be stupid and reckless not to use them. Obama should face reality. He is in a war with people who do not recognize the Geneva Convention and subscribe to torture.

Posted by: US Grant on September 5, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"McCain, Lieberman, Graham, and the RNC simply have to count on public ignorance, and repeat a line they know is false."

There's no reason to believe this won't work. I spent the weekend with four intelligent and reasonably informed adult voters who wouldn't have known this, just as they wouldn't have known the facts of the other misleading statements and lies that come out of the McCain campaign. These people aren't dumb, and they aren't lazy, but they lack the time and inclination to spend hours a day reading political blogs. And they, far more than those of us reading this blog, are representative of the voting public. That's the way it is, my friends.

Posted by: Ace McCain on September 5, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The troops know who supports them and who doesn't. That's why campaign donations from active-duty military personnel are running 6-to-1 in favor of Obama.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 5, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon guys, how many people do you think actually warched Lindsay Graham foaming at the mouth. Particularly LIVs, and even MIVs. There was a football game on -- McCain spoke after it was over, Graham didn't.

But I do agree that McCain's voting against the troops -- after they come home -- against the GI Bill, etc., might be the strongest issue Obama has for a lot of people. Right now McCaain's only advantage is "POW, wave the flag, Country First." Hitting him on his votes on Veteran's affairs, on no-bid contracts to KBR, etc. will puncture that.

This is really a chance for a "He did WHAT" moment -- and I have no doubt Obama will use it.

And, btw, 'bluestatedon' if Axelrod is General McClellan, since a certain NY Senator had name recognition, money, and the support of party professionals behind her at the start of the campaign, and then used the 'kitchen sink' strategy you seem so in love with ...

How come we are voting for Obama, not her?

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on September 5, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

How about on the issue of supporting veterans, especially those suffering wounds, both physical and psychological?

I would ask my fellow veterans to look at the voting record of each candidate concerning issues that would affect them, and then ask, "which one actually wants to help veterans, and which one is trying to blow smoke up my ass?"

Posted by: 2Manchu on September 5, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

"We'll see if it works."

It won't work!

No one ever went broke or lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. High minded crap will not win an election here as long as Mccain/Palin/Nixon are spewing the same crap. "Democrats are elitist!" "Obama is uppity" "They hate our small towns!" The idiot electorate will eat this shit up with a spoon. The Democrats MUST fight back.

Posted by: Paul X. on September 5, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"We'll see if it works."

It won't work!

No one ever went broke or lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. High minded crap will not win an election here as long as Mccain/Palin/Nixon are spewing the same crap. "Democrats are elitist!" "Obama is uppity" "They hate our small towns!" The idiot electorate will eat this shit up with a spoon. The Democrats MUST fight back.

Posted by: Paul X. on September 5, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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