I’m sorry, but even when the McCain team does something right — bring up Bill Ayers — they do it wrong. See this ad. Chris Cilizza at the Post is right to write this: It feels like two totally different ads in the space of 30 seconds. The first 10 seconds are aimed at tying Obama to Ayers as a way of questioning his judgment; the last 20 seconds are dedicated to painting congressional Democrats as blindly opportunistic when it came to the bailout package. Huh? What does Ayers have to do with congressional Democrats? (A point of clarification from experts in campaign finance law: Because the cost of the ad is split between the McCain campaign and the RNC, it must make mention of Congress. So, that explains that. But, it doesn’t make the ad any less confusing for the average viewer.)
I have liked only one (or maybe two) McCain ad(s) since the GOP convention. Every one of the others seems heavy-handed; most of them aren’t entirely coherent (they don’t close the loop, logically); and almost none of them offer the right sort of tone or (if a positive ad) of serious-, sober-minded hopefulness. But this ad, well, stinks. It doesn’t explain who Ayers is, or why or how Obama lied. And it takes a logical leap — no, a Snake River Canyon Evel Knievel blastoff (and pathetic flameout) — to meld Ayers with congressional Democrats. Cilizza isn’t the only one who just won’t get it, largely because there’s nothing logical to, uh…. to get got.
Another thing: All of this ominous music and scary-sounding narration is terrible. It defeats the purpose of the ad. Voters DO want relevant information; they do NOT want negative or nasty campaigns. By using all the ominous music, ominous wording, and omimous narrator’s intonations, the commercials SCREAMABSOLUTELYFRIGGINSCREAMWAYTOOLOUD that this is an ATTACK COMMERCIAL. It basically tells the viewer two things: First, we think you are too stupid to get it unless we use every device known to man to beat the message into your skull; and second, that we are on the attack and are trying to scare you about the other guy. So it therefore comes across, on its face, as, yes, a sign of a negative or nasty campaign. The effect is for the viewer to tune out the substance of the message, to discount it immediately, or even to react AGAINST it and therefore against McCain.
There is every good reason to raise real concerns about Ayers and Wright and Rezco and the other conglomeration of low-lifes who have been so important a part of Obama’s career. The concerns are a wholly legitimate issue. But the way to do it is by presenting the facts in a concise and cogent manner, with no bells and whistles and Friday-the-13th music, in a way that makes clear WHY the issue should be important to the viewer.
The McCain ads fail on all counts. Badly. Disastrously.