Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 28, 2008

'TINY'.... When it comes to genuine, almost pathological, dishonesty, the McCain campaign has secured a place in history. If there's a Political Liars Hall of Fame, these guys are first-ballot inductees, no questions asked.

This afternoon, McCain re-released an ad first unveiled two months ago. The voiceover tells the viewer:

"Iran. Radical Islamic government. Known sponsors of terrorism. Developing nuclear capabilities to 'generate power' but threatening to eliminate Israel.

"Obama says Iran is a 'tiny' country, 'doesn't pose a serious threat.' Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't 'serious threats'?

"Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president."

And here's what Obama actually said, back in May:

"Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, 'We're going to wipe you off the planet.' And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall."

If McCain disagrees with Obama's assessment, fine, let him make his case. But that would require intellectual seriousness and integrity, neither of which is found at McCain campaign HQ. It leads to shameless lying like this ad, which obviously distorts the meaning of simple words that even McCain/Palin should be able to understand.

Look, this isn't complicated. During the cold war, the former USSR was "the world's greatest land military power, with a massive strategic nuclear capacity that carried on a multi-decade ideological struggle" with the United States. Iran, meanwhile, has an economy the size of Finland's, an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion, and hasn't invaded a country since the late 18th century. Anyone who argues the threat posed by modern-day Iran is similar, both in size and scope, to a former nuclear superpower is either hopelessly confused or lying.

So, why the re-release? In August, the ad was slated for a national release that never came. Now, according to Halperin, "Tiny" will air "in key Florida markets."

In other words, McCain wants to scare Jewish voters with blatant lies. Even by McCain standards, this is pathetic.

Steve Benen 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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"The only thing more dangerous than believing the enemy's propaganda is believing your own." Joseph Goebbels

Posted by: Bill H. on October 28, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

What a sad man the senile senator from Arizona is.

Posted by: SteinL on October 28, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Keep Fighting for Sixty in the Senate!

Posted by: Newsie Wikipedian on October 28, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Key Florida markets" might not work as well as they hope. Long-time Fla residents kinda-sorta remember the Cuban missile crisis. Nukes 100 miles away, living 20 miles from Homestead/Macdill/Eglin, it kinda focuses the attention.

Posted by: dr2chase on October 28, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

In all honesty, does anyone think he'll be able to return to the Senate?

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 28, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK


All the McCainites have now is fear itself.

If they don't act fearful, they'll all be tearful (come 11/5).

Nuclear power, blah, blah,blah. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran

Say again, who's dangerously unprepared to be president?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 28, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

McCain knows it's over but as long as he's got a few bucks in his pocket, he'll keep tossing the dice. His campaign mirrors his personality: when one bet fails, place another. And so on.

Has there ever been a candidate less temperamentally suited for president than McCain? It's not that McCain is stupid or ignorant. It's that he makes his own decisions based on "feelings". After eight years of Bush, the deja vu is blinding.

Posted by: walt on October 28, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I know what you're saying about the McCain camp and their lies, but could we not sweep history under the rug so quickly?


I know it's obvious, and that you're talking about campaigning, but do we really even know the degree to which the Bush administration is guilty of lying, and of lying during the 2004 race? And think about the magnitude of the meaning of those possible lies -- lies about the Constitution, and about the very fabric of our governance -- when compared with McCain's idiotic campaign lies.

I would prefer that McCain's campaign be remembered for incompetence on an epic scale.

But when it comes to lying, whether we're talking about politics or policy, I think the Bush administration is in a category all by itself

Posted by: The Phantom on October 28, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...my fellow prisoners." "...I couldn't agree with you more..."

Posted by: effluvientOne on October 28, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

If McCain is hoping to scare Jewish voters in Florida with this attack, then there is an honest argument that the context of Obama's words does not matter.

When you read the quote, Obama is saying that the threat to *the United States* posed by Iran is tiny compared to the threat *to the United States* that the Soviet Union posed back in the day.

What McCain is counting on is a group of voters who don't care about the threat Iran poses to the United States, but the threat is poses *to Israel* which is plausibly more serious than the threat they pose to us. The argument, in other words, is that Obama only cares about the threat to us and is naive about the threat posed to one of our most important allies.

That he feels such an argument plays only with Jewish voters seems a little racist, but there you have it.

Posted by: skeptic on October 28, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but I have to request a reality check here. Israel has nuclear weapons and is armed to the teeth with the latest military hardware, much of it courtesy of the U.S.

Exactly how much of a threat is Iran to Israel, never mind the U.S.?

Posted by: Rapid Eddie on October 28, 2008 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think McCain is out of money. He could have produced another ad with the same message for about $5,000-10,000. If I were the television stations in Florida, I would insist on money up front.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 28, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

What are McCain's standards? This post is good evidence pointing to the total lack of them. They recycled a discredited ad from months ago. i mean cant they just make some new stuff up? this is just embarrassing.

Posted by: The Gaucho Politico on October 28, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is the standard of pathetic.

I trust that if Obama has upwards of 75% of Jewish support, they've done their homework on matters as such and won't be swayed either way.

And so judging this tactic on McCain's record of return, Obama's Jewish support should climb to 79-82%.

Posted by: TBone on October 28, 2008 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

"We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me. 'He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?'" -Barack Obama

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez when I saw the title to this post I thought you were going to be making a comparison between McCain's brain and his penis size. Not something juvenile and stupid like lying and obfuscation.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 28, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Watch this video of the McCain operations in central Florida and it will show you all you need to know about their campaign.


Scary, no?

Posted by: MsJoanne on October 28, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: "During the cold war, the former USSR was 'the world's greatest land military power, with a massive strategic nuclear capacity that carried on a multi-decade ideological struggle' with the United States. Iran, meanwhile, has an economy the size of Finland's ..."

You really shouldn't mention Finland in any discussion of Soviet military power. One word: Suomussalmi.

Posted by: Out & About in The Castro on October 28, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Rapid Eddie -- I'm not saying that McCain's argument is valid, I'm merely saying that the greater context of Obama's statement is not necessarily relevant to the argument.

I agree with you: the idea that Iran represents an existential threat to Israel is stupid. But if you are making that argument, it isn't a savage lie to disregard what Obama said about the comparative threat the Soviet Union posed to the U.S. and focus on the fact that he thinks Iran is a "tiny" threat on par with Cuba and Venezuela.

Posted by: skeptic on October 28, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but for me exactly what Jewish voters are is "Easily Scared". I'm sure that any kind of anti-Israel propaganda attributed to Obama combined with the inherent racism of the retired jewish community of Florida will serve McCain's needs very handily.

Posted by: rbe1 on October 28, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Deep breath, and:

Exactly how much of a threat is Iran to Israel, never mind the U.S.? -Rapid Eddie

Iran's greatest threat to the world comes from their ability to disrupt oil shipments through the Straight of Hormuz with their stockpiles of Russian made Silkworm missiles. Nothing about that threat has changed significantly in any way over the last decade.

What has changed is our rhetoric. The Bush administration labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, the Axis of Evil, and elevated them to a powerful position on the world stage. When North Korea developed nuclear weapons, we gave them a seat at the table. Just recently we removed them from a list of states sponsoring terrorism.

Can we honestly harbor any questions about why Iran would want to develop nuclear technology given the messages we sent?

Ahmedinejad's swagger aside (and truly, he is Iran's George Bush), the Ayatollah and the real Iranian powers that be want to preserve Iran's sovereignty and continue to raise their standing on the world stage. We've given them a taste of what it is to be a superpower and they want more.

And that is the primary reason I don't think they're a threat to Israel or the US. They want to sit at the grown-up table, and making nice with us and Israel is the only way they can, which is one of the reasons I grow weary of all the saber rattling. Iran is the most stable country in the Middle East. We decimated the Sunni army in Iraq that, the only military that was a check on the Shia army of Iran, and now we have McCain poking them with a sharp stick.

It's doubly stupid for McCain to act this way, because if it weren't for the Ayatollah's control of Shia militias in Iraq and their assistance, the vaunted 'surge' wouldn't have done squat. We have to, begrudgingly or willingly, seriously look into making Iran an ally if stabilizing the Middle East is even remotely a goal of ours.

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

That he feels such an argument plays only with Jewish voters seems a little racist

The Jews are a race?

The Falashas, Sephardim, Ashkenazim and Mizrachim seem a bit too diverse genetically to be considered a "race," at least among those for whom race is an operative concept.

However, I'll acknowledge that it stereotypes all Florida Jews as having knee-jerk pro Israeli government positions.

Posted by: lobbygow on October 28, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

And what a "Tiny" man and candidate John McCain has revealed himself to be running this dishonest and disgusting campaign.

Posted by: ckelly on October 28, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is a belligerent, warlike nation and war with her is inevitable. All of you punks younger than my boxer shorts would know this if you weren't so busy tying blinders on each other in some weird liberal parlor sex game.

Posted by: Myke K. on October 28, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, why not pull out all the stops? McCain could neutralize the youth vote by promising to open "medicinal marijuana centers" in all 50 states, forgive college loans in exchange for one summer as a camp counselor, and make Florida a "alcohol enforcement-free zone" during Spring Break.

He could offer guaranteed increases in Social Security payments for all seniors, forever.

And, he could offer to appoint Bono as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Then maybe he'd win.

Posted by: CT on October 28, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The RNC is now running Wright ads in PA, OH and FL, accompanying the scare-the-Jewish ad McCain is running.

Yet in the past 10 days, OH and FL have moved several points ... toward Obama. And for all practical purposes, those remain the only three states they're really campaigning for.

All the signs look like they're running an Anti-Rout campaign, now, not going for a victory. So despite the dirty ads, as I've said before: Americans ain't buying, because they've got nothing left to buy with.

Apparently fear of the decline of income, assets and retirement accounts are greater fears than anything the clueless Republicans are yammering about. In all the states not currently safely red, McCain's got a decent shot at holding GA, NC, WV and his home state of AZ. And little else.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on October 28, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

MyKKK, if Israel wanted a war with Iran, they would've attacked by now. They have the means, they think they have the rationale, they have a lame duck President in the Whitehouse, and they could dictate Obama's (or the next President's) repsonse for him, if they wanted to. I think even the Israelis in their political changes going on are tired of war too.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on October 28, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

"The argument, in other words, is that Obama only cares about the threat to us and is naive about the threat posed to one of our most important allies."-skeptic

Yet, that would be just as bad a lie by McAce, since Obama didn't imply Iran isn't a threat to our allies. Obama is merely arguing the magnitude of Bush's incompetence by refusing to have a dialogue with enemies.

Posted by: Jim on October 28, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is a belligerent, warlike nation and war with her is inevitable. -Myke K

How many wars is Iran currently involved in? How many wars is the US currently involved in?

I won't argue that they're belligerent (I probably would be, too, if I had to listen Bush and McCain's irresponsible saber rattling), but I think war with them can and must be avoided. If we committed an act of aggression, Iran would shut off the world's energy supply. If you think our economy looks bad now, you would be in for a surprise.

Perhaps instead of blog trolling, you should read a book by Robert Baer called The Devil We Know.

Of course, what does Baer know, he's just a namby-pamby 20 year veteran of the CIA, retired. It's not like he focused his entire career on the Middle East or anything.

But sure, you've got old underwear, so we should take your ignorant word for it.

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think "Myke K" is a parody of one of our more, ah, belligerent trolls.

Posted by: Gregory on October 28, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK


Dammit. I hate biting on parodies. At least I can take comfort in the fact that more trolls are so far gone they don't even realize they are self-contained parodies, only they aren't in on the joke.

We're well past the point where real trolls are indistinguishable from their humor seeking counterparts which is why, per Poe's Law, I demand an ironic smiley!

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think "Myke K" is a parody of one of our more, ah, belligerent trolls.

I hope so, because otherwise he's just admitted to wearing 53-year old boxer shorts.

Posted by: rea on October 28, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

I am totally against McCain and agree that he has lied about a whole lot of stuff, but this ad seems like a pretty accurate depiction of what Obama said. What I don't get is why there is disagreement. I mean, Steve, you make it clear what Obama said and you make the exact same case that Obama made, which is that Iran is, in fact, a tiny country compared to other threats we successfully faced down and defeated. At least in terms of representing what Obama said, that seems to be the only thing that the McCain ad is saying. Is McCain arguing that Iran is some sort of existential threat? I believe he thinks it is, but clearly to any non paranoid human being Iran is no such threat. So, McCain is certainly hyping a threat into something it is not, but he's saying what Obama said pretty accurately.

So, again, why the brouhaha over what is, in this case, a pretty accurate summary of what Obama said.

Posted by: Vince on October 28, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK


The ad does not indicate that Obama was comparing Iran to the robustly nuclear capable Soviet Union. Anyone who thinks they are a comparable threat is delusional.

Obama also didn't say Iran didn't pose a threat, he essentially said they don't have the power to annihilate the entire world.

And his broader point was that we sat down and talked with countries who could, countries that were much less stable and far more threatening, so we should sit down with countries like Iran today, before they *do* become capable of destroying the entire world.

It has nothing to do with facing down and defeating threats; it has everything to do with when we respect a country enough to talk to them. History shows we reserve seats at the table for nuclear enabled countries, like the Soviet Union, most of Europe, and now North Korea.

Is it really any wonder why countries seek nuclear arms?

Is it really any wonder why the more mature candidate in this race is making the case that talking to them now would help prevent the spreading of nuclear arms?

Honestly, I don't know how you came to your conclusion after reading the article, so I'll just direct you to read it again.

What McCain is claiming Obama said, as usual, is light years from what Obama actually said.

Posted by: doubtful on October 28, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK


I've read the blog entry many times as I did when this made the rounds the first time. Obama pretty clearly thinks that Iran is "tiny". And, yes, Obama is clearly saying Iran is tiny compared to the USSR and is, overall, making an argument with which I wholeheartedly agree. McCain leaves that bit about the comparison out. And McCain's conclusions are clearly wrong.

Maybe I've become a bit numbed by all of the lies, but this one strikes me as rather garden variety exaggeration of your political opponents stance.

Saying, on the other hand, that Obama wants the courts to redistribute the nations wealth is a complete and total fabrication of something that Obama never said. Obama never said that as far as I can tell and was, in fact, making a conservative argument saying the exact opposite of what the McCain compaign is saying he said. You see, that's a lie.

Saying that Obama thinks that Iran is tiny, when in fact that's what Obama seems to actually think (okay, again, McCain makes it look like an absolute comparison when it is a relative comparison to other foes we defeated) doesn't strike me as lie.

Again, this one is a pretty garden variety campaign tactic that virtually all campaign use. Focus on the fact that McCain's Iran policy would be bat shit crazy and that Obama's is a much more reasoned and sane policy, based precisely on the fact that Iran *is* tiny.

Posted by: Vince on October 28, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

One final point I'd like to make:

McCain is lying. He's just not really lying about what Obama said. McCain's lie is in hyping the threat that Iran poses to either us or Israel. While, again, what he's doing is an exaggeration, it does highlight practical differences between the 2 candidates positions on Iran. Obama doesn't think that Iran poses as big of a threat to the US as does McCain. Their respective beliefs as to the relative strength of Iran lead to dramatically different policies towards Iran. As such, it seems, and maybe this is relative, but a pretty clean ad on McCain's behalf, at least in regards to telling (or not) a lie about Obama's position and policy.

Posted by: Vince on October 28, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Iran isn't a longtime enemy of Israel. Iran was the second country to recognize Israel (after the United States) and didn't participate in the Arab-Israeli wars. The United States overthrew Iran's democratically-elected government in 1953 and installed the shah as dictator. Anti-American sentiment in Iran stems from us overthrowing their government and supporting a dictator who tortured his own people. Anti-Israeli sentiment stems from a widespread feeling in the Muslim world that the US favors Israel, and it's easier for governments in the region to stir up their populace over the Israel-Palestine situation than it is for them to deal with inequities in their own countries. The US should enforce a fair two-state solution that would ensure Israel's national security and take away the issue as a cause for terrorism.

Posted by: croatoan on October 28, 2008 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Only a liar would say McCain is lying with this ad. McCain is telling the truth since Obama did everything McCain said he did.

Posted by: SteveIL on October 28, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK



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