Republicans are opening up a three-pronged attack against President Obama, portraying the Democrat as reliant on negative campaigning to conceal a record of economic failure. But that attack could prompt indignant resistance from Obama supporters when they realize an out-of-context quote flips Obama’s original meaning on its end.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) will make public on Tuesday a new website, video and research document. The website, www.Ottack2012.com, documents Obama’s use of negative ads against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 campaign and charges him with using “stale tactics to scare the voters.” The four-page research memo walks through a catalog of dismal economic statistics and contrasts them with Obama campaign promises.
But it is the Web video that is most likely to trigger pushback. The ad starts with clips of cable news anchors reflecting on Obama’s use of negative campaign tactics against Republicans.
What the video doesn’t show you is the sentence that comes directly before, spoken by Obama at a 2008 rally in Canton, Ohio, as quoted by The New York Times.
“He has spent the last few weeks of the campaign calling me every name in the book. That’s how you play the game in Washington,” Obama says, referring to McCain and clearly indicating his opposition to the underhanded politics he was describing.
The RNC said the point of the ad was to demonstrate the irony and hypocrisy of Obama decrying negative attacks in 2008, then adopting them as a mantra in 2012.
But this isn’t the first time this campaign cycle that Obama’s words have been parsed and their context omitted in an ad to suggest the exact opposite of his original meaning.
In November, when Romney launched his first television ad of the presidential campaign, he quoted from another remark Obama made four years ago.
“Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,’ ” read the original phrasing from Obama.
“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” was all that viewers saw when they watched the Romney ad.
In fact, the quotation used in the Romney ad came just two sentences earlier in Obama’s speech than the one that found its way into the RNC ad.
It also sets a precedent that will be difficult for Republicans to protest if Democrats decide to adopt the same tactic.
When Romney faulted his Republican rivals in New Hampshire last week for distorting the context of a remark about liking to be able to fire people, his critics quickly called it hypocritical, noting that Romney was faulting others for abiding by the same standard he had set with his own ad against Obama.
This post was updated at 11:42 a.m. to correct the location of the rally where Obama gave his speech.
Watch the video: