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Chris Durang

Chris Durang

Posted: August 22, 2008 12:35 PM

McCain's Lying TV Ads


John McCain has become a liar.

And as a citizen of the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, I can tell you that every morning on my television for the last month, McCain has been lying about Barack Obama's position on raising taxes.

Obama has been saying he would raise the taxes on people making above $250,000 a year. (Basically go back to how they were under Clinton, which were pretty good times, no?)

Yet McCain's daily ads have been trying to frighten middle and lower income voters with all the awful things they claim Obama will do.

Repeatedly McCain's ads say Obama will raise taxes on people making $42,000.

I mean, you've heard Obama say he'd raise the taxes to pre-Bush-tax-cut levels on people making over $250,000, right? Has he ever said, and I'm going to raise them on people making $42,000?

Actually, I dvr'd the ad, let me print the whole thing:

"Life in the spotlight must be grand." [pictures of Obama on magazines] "For the rest of us, times are tough. Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000. He promises more taxes - small businesses, seniors, your life savings. Painful taxes. Hard choices for your budget. Not ready to lead. That's the real Obama. I'm John McCain, and I approved this message."

Well, John McCain, you're lying. Your straight talk express has become the Prevaricating Pony Express.

"Life in the spotlight." So Obama is charismatic, so was John Kennedy. Big deal.

"For the rest of us, times are tough."

Oh, yes, you and Cindy feel our pain. I'm really convinced.

And have you all seen the new, rather delectable article that McCain can't recall how many houses he has???

(Note: I wrote this section yesterday, but this has been all over TV and the internet since then.)

The article quotes an interview with Politico in which McCain says he's "uncertain" how many houses he and his wife Cindy have.

"I think -- I'll have my staff get to you," McCain said. "It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you."

The answer, according to the group Progressive Accountability, is an even 10 homes, ranches, condos, and lofts, together worth a combined estimated $13,823,269.

Thank you, Mr. McCain, for giving us this ammunition to show how out of touch you are.

But meanwhile that ad lying about Obama planning to raise taxes on those making "just $42,000" is still playing daily.

It's repeated over and over, and I'm fearful it will stick in voters' heads.

Yes, I know in the ad the word "voted" is in the past tense. But the effect to a regular viewer is to say that Obama will increase taxes for those making "just $42,000."

The figure has that specificity that suggests it's some sort of half-truth, but the media never does any fact checking about any of this.

The only one I heard refer to it was Keith Olbermann, who said the ad's figure was a misleading reference to a non-binding vote Obama supported in favor of repealing the Bush tax cuts. That was helpful, but still failed to explain what the hell the $42,000 referred to.

Writing this post, I tried to find out this information (since it's still repeated daily), and for once a google search didn't easily help. Obama + tax + 42,000 got me lots of sites repeating McCain's lies and/or saying it wasn't true but giving no specifics.

I finally thought to go to FactCheck.org, and found excellent information.

The $42,000 is totally misleading, but it's also complicated.

And as you know, television doesn't "do" complicated.

Though they sure can discuss the "Is Obama is an empty shell of a celebrity?" topic for 100 hours at a time.

I'm going to quote FactCheck.org; the ad they refer to is the one I quoted. (And the emphases below are mine.)

...in this ad McCain has corrected one earlier misrepresentation. He and others in his campaign have been saying for weeks that Obama once voted for a Democratic budget bill that McCain falsely claimed would raise taxes on persons making as little as $32,000 a year. We challenged that false claim in an article posted July 8. In this ad, McCain says Obama voted to raise taxes on persons making "just $42,000 a year," which is true for some but not all. Yet the ad still misleads.


The measure Obama supported contained a provision - which is not part of his current tax proposals - that would have increased the rate paid by those who have taxable income high enough to fall into the 25 percent tax bracket. The 25 percent rate would have increased to 28 percent, as it was before the Bush tax cuts. The effect would have been to increase taxes for a single taxpayer with as little as $32,550 in taxable income in 2008, after all deductions and exclusions from total annual earnings.

But that works out to be $41,500 a year in total income for a single taxpayer with no dependents who takes the standard deduction and exemption allowed by the tax code. So it's true that a single taxpayer making $42,000 this year would see an income tax increase - of $15. That assumes the provision Obama voted for had been enacted and assumes further that the taxpayer did not qualify for more than the standard deduction.

Wow. It's not part of his tax plan now anyway. And it would have, if enacted, been an increase of $15.

Run for the hills, Obama is going to kill you with his taxes! $15!

John and Cindy could buy a toothpick with that.

The article finishes up with this:

The TV ad also says that Obama "promises more taxes on small business, seniors, your life savings, your family." This statement is simply not true for the vast majority of viewers who will see it. Obama, in fact, promises to deliver a $1,000 tax cut for families making up to $150,000 a year, and he says he would increase income tax rates, capital gains tax rates and taxes on dividends only for those with family incomes over $250,000 a year, or for single taxpayers making over $200,000.

Sigh.

This ad plays in PA repeatedly (and I assume in other swing states as well).

McCain, as you know, originally opposed Bush's tax cuts. From a New York Times article entitled On Signature Issues, McCain Has Shown Some Inconsistencies in the Senate:

"I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief."--John McCain, May 2001

McCain has now embraced the Republican's "cut and spend" philosophy, where we don't expect to pay for anything and we borrow money from China to fight a misbegotten war. And as long as the wealthy at the top get to keep their tax rate cuts, that's all that matters. Let our grandchildren eat cake. Let them choke on it. Ha ha.

The country is going, or maybe already is, bankrupt.

Yesterday morning on ABC's Good Morning, America I watched a piece on an upcoming documentary called "IOUSA," featuring David Walters, former head of the Government Accountability Office, and he (and various economists) are warning of a major financial melt-down. Walters says it all started in 2002 when "the budget controls that were in place that helped us to go from deficits to surpluses in the 90s expired; and Washington has been totally out of control since then."

That's right, 2002, with Bush and the Republicans in charge of both Senate and House, when they cut taxes for the wealthy and subsequently borrowed us down the river.

The accountability office? Really, why hasn't Bush abolished that? Just on the name alone.

Anyway, I know the above is a longer conversation, but it's in this context of the economy going to hell that McCain has become a new convert to the Let's Make the Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Permanent.

He wants to protect movie stars who make millions per picture; and protect mortgage brokers who wreck the economy by giving loans to people who can't afford them but the brokers somehow made a lot of money making these bad deals; and protect CEO's who get multiple million dollar bonus packages after they destroy their companies, and their employees become jobless and their pensions and 401K's are suddenly bankrupt.

And so McCain joins the long list of Republicans who somehow convince middle and low income people to vote FOR this.

Why are they so hoodwinked? Is it the lottery? Like the alcoholics hooked on pipe dreams in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, they think they're going to be millionaires tomorrow, and so they vote on "what if I become rich" instead of "where I am now"?

I don't know.

McCain has multiple houses, doesn't want to give us health care, and keeps hanging out with Phil Gramm who calls "the rest of us" mentioned in McCain's ad "whiners" about the economy.

Blah blah.

I was disturbed Obama didn't counter these ads quickly. Eventually he put out some hard-hitting ones, though he never tried to explain the $42,000 figure which I think he should have. (Though I admit it's hard. You saw how long it took me.)

And I think Obama needs to rev up his passion, though the recent news clips I've seen of him on the stump seem improved. He needs to convince us of his need to lead us. He has to watch out for his thoughtful hesitancy, where he weighs words before he says them. That's a good thing to do in life and in meetings, and will serve him well as President. But it doesn't serve him well when he's trying to show people who he is in a campaign or in a debate.

I learned in Hollywood that when I would pitch something, I'd get all modest and my voice would trail off and I'd say thing like "I'm not quite sure what the ending will be." (I said that once to Lily Tomlin early in my career, and I could see the fear of hiring me flash across her face. I still adore her, but the project I spoke with her about didn't happen.)

Later on I learned to do my pitches like an acting job: I acted confidence, I prepared what I said almost like learning lines, and I never expressed doubts (though I do in person constantly).

Obama has to do more of that. I believe he will.

One more thing - someone on Hardball yesterday called McCain a moderate. Chris Matthews challenged her on it - what views does he have that are moderate? He's a hawk in terms of war. He'll bellicose in tone, like Bush. (You like that? You want more of it?) He is 100% anti-choice. He'd be choosing the final swing vote on the Supreme Court.

He ain't no moderate, people. And he can't remember how many houses he owns.