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Clinton Ad Plays National Security Card

Huffington Post   First Posted: 06/25/08 06:54 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 01:25 PM ET

Clinton Supporters

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"Entering a proud tradition of Democrats trying to scare the beejesus out of voters by implying the rival candidate may be responsible for a nuclear holocaust, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, began airing a new TV ad today," ABC's Jake Tapper reports.

"It's 3:00am and your children are asleep," the voice over says. "There's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call."


"Whether someone knows the world's leaders, knows the military, someone tested and ready to lead. It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"

Tapper notes the ad's resemblance to the 1984 Walter Mondale ad against Gary Hart called "Red Phone":

UPDATE: Obama responded to the ad during an event at a VFW hall in Houston, Texas:

"I just want to take a moment to respond to an ad that Senator Clinton is apparently running today that asks, 'Who do you want answering the phone in the White House when it's 3am and something has happened in the world?'


"We've seen these ads before. They're the kind that play on peoples' fears to scare up votes.

"Well it won't work this time. Because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is - what kind of judgment will you make when you answer? We've had a red phone moment. It was the decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer.

"But I stood up and said that a war in Iraq would cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars. I said that it would distract us from the real threat we face - and that we should take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's the judgment I made on the most important foreign policy decision of our generation, and that's the kind of judgment I'll show when I answer that phone in the White House as President of the United States - the judgment to keep us safe, to go after our real enemies, and to provide the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States with the equipment they need when we do send them into battle, and the respect and care they have earned when they come home. And I'll never see the threat of terrorism as a way to scare up votes, because it's a threat that should rally this country around our common enemies. That's the judgment we need at 3am. And that's the judgment that I am running for President to provide."

Obama's campaign has also re-released an ad featuring Gen. Tony McPeak:

UPDATE II: Officials for both campaigns discussed the ad on conference calls today:

In a hastily-organized conference call, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), retired Gen. Tony McPeak, and former U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Danzig defended Obama from the idea that he lacks the experience to respond effectively to a national or international crisis.


"The question is not whether you can wake up at 3 a.m. and answer the phone," said McPeak. "That's pretty easy."

Durbin echoed that sentiment, noting that handling these sorts of crises is more about judgment than experience. "It isn't a matter of just who is picking up the phone," said Durbin. "It's about getting the right answer."

Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, insisted in a noon conference call, that the "3 a.m." ad was "positive" and designed to remind voters of the stakes in next Tuesday's voting. The ad is a "positive argument about Senator Clinton having the strength, experience and wisdom" to effectively handle an unforeseen international crisis, explained Penn.

"This ad speaks to what people very much know in their heart," Penn added. "When picking a president, this is a very important qualification."

UPDATE: Hillary Communications Director Howard Wolfson has responded to Obama's comments, according to Ben Smith:

"It is an absolute insult to the voters to suggest that a discussion of national security in this campaign constitutes fearmongering," he said.


He also noted that Obama had said "it's a legitimate question," as well as one of "the kind of [ads] that play upon people's fears."

"The Obama campaign should either decide: Is it fearmongering or is it a legitimate question," he said.

UPDATE: A nice snag, from Bill Clinton circa 2004:

Now one of Clinton's laws of politics is this: If one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.

UPDATE: Obama has released his own version of Hillary's commercial:

UPDATE: Now Hillary has responded to Barack's accusations of fear-mongering at a rally in Texas, saying that she doesn't "think people in Texas scare all that easily." Watch it:

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