The DNC has a highly misleading new ad built around McCain’s 100-years-in-Iraq comment. McCain, of course, said he’d be fine with a 100-year troop presence in Iraq “as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” The editing and the visuals deliberately convey the impression that McCain favors a 100-year hot war.
Naturally, the RNC is unhappy with this. But they’re going beyond pushing back rhetorically and bringing out the lawyers, claiming that the ad is “illegal” as they ask the networks not to run it. I was on a conference call this afternoon with RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, RNC Communications Director Danny Diaz, and RNC Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross. They claimed that the DNC has violated campaign finance regulations by coordinating with the Obama and Clinton campaigns, but that was pretty much an afterthought; their main contention was that the content of the ad is defamatory. This is a huge stretch; the ad doesn’t actually misquote McCain, it just takes him out of context. I asked if they had any legal precedents in mind to justify such a legal claim; Cairncross replied that
At this stage what we’re doing is we’re calling on the stations themselves to excercise their own judgement. Each campaign cycle has brought this issue about, and most times, the stations, when such a misleading — deliberately misleading ad has been sent to them, they’ve chosen to excercise that judgement, and it’s never gotten to such a stage of litigation. So that is not where we are right now, we’re talking about the stations excercising their judgement.
Marc Ambinder followed up by asking if they’d go forward with litigation to “preserve the credibility of the RNC” if the networks don’t pull the ad. Cairncross was non-committal, saying they’d “have to assess that when we get there — if and when we get there.”
This is incredibly lame. Do we really want to turn our politics into a legal bidding war over which side can more effectively silence the other? I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse that they’re obviously bluffing.
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