WASHINGTON – If mud is the currency of political campaigns, the U.S. presidential race is on sounder footing than Wall Street.
Just look at the latest crop of campaign ads.
The way they tell it, voters on Nov. 4 are either going to elect a president with crooked friends or one who wouldn’t mind seeing them sick and poor in retirement.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s new commercial portrays rival Barack Obama as being part of a corrupt Chicago political machine.
It revives questions about Obama’s links to political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who raised up to $250,000 for the Illinois senator’s previous political campaigns.
Rezko was convicted of fraud, attempted bribery and money laundering earlier this year. Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Rezko but has acknowledged an error of judgment in a land deal with the businessman.
McCain’s ad tries to tar Obama with his fundraiser’s misdeeds, and with his connections with Chicago politicians who have been investigated for various issues.
“His money man Tony Rezko. Client. Patron. Convicted,” the ad announcer intones. His political godfather Emil Jones. Under ethical cloud. His governor Rod Blagojevich. A legacy of federal and state investigations.”
“With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead,” the ad says.
The Illinois Democrat takes a few shots — and a few liberties — in two of his own new ads that try to raise voter fears about McCain.
One portrays the Arizona Republican as wanting to gamble away people’s Social Security in the stock market.
“A broken economy, failing banks, unstable markets, families struggling. To protect us in retirement, Social Security has never been more important,” the ad says.
It notes that McCain has favored privatizing Social Security by letting people invest some of their Social Security retirement savings in the stock market. And it quotes him saying he campaigned for Bush’s plan to do that.
“Cutting benefits in half. Risking Social Security on the stock market,” the ad says. “The Bush-McCain privatization plan. Can you really afford more of the same?”
Sounds worrisome, but FactCheck.org dismisses the benefit cutting as false. It says no one now getting benefits or close to retirement would have seen any reduction in benefits under the plan McCain supported.
In another ad, Obama says deregulation of the financial industry led to the current U.S. economic crisis.
It accuses McCain of being a backer of that deregulation and says he now wants to do the same with health care.
“McCain just published an article praising Wall Street deregulation, said he’d reduce oversight of the health insurance industry too ‘just as we have done over the last decade in banking,’” the ad says.
“Increasing costs and threatening coverage. A prescription for disaster. John McCain. A risk we just can’t afford to take.”
FactCheck.org says the deregulation claim is taken out of context. In fact, he was only calling for deregulation to enable the sale and purchase of health insurance across state lines, FactCheck says.