Time’s Michael Scherer strains unsuccessfully to find equivalence in campaign ads
In an update, Scherer is unrepentant, claiming he was attacked because he dared question Obama. Of course, counterintuitively going after Obama for misleading ads at a time when the very air is thick with McCain campaign howlers is designed to get attention. But whatever. I’ll leave the SS part to others, but Scherer also says:
I find it telling that the good people of Media Matters/Atrios/TPM found no objection to the much more significant distortion I identify in the second Obama ad about McCain’s plans for alternative energy. I am sure they are all working on their own posts to chastise Obama about this distortion presently.
I hope they aren’t, because the thing is, Scherer was completely off target on the energy part too.
The central and rather bizarre complaint is that "instead of talking about the opponents’ plans, the ads talk about the opponents’ past votes … Candidates should argue with what their opponents say they will do, not with what can be inferred from a vote a decade ago." But why on earth wouldn’t past votes be relevant to the decision whether to trust a candidate’s campaign promises? Anyway, the votes referenced in Obama’s "Alternative" ad all took place in Bush’s second term, not "a decade ago." There was the 1995 energy bill (the ethanol and hybrids — though McCain’s nay vote was better on the merits) and the whole series of energy votes this past session.
Of course, if you do go back more than a decade, you’ll see McCain voted against clean air or clean energy some 50 times over his career … but that shouldn’t distract you from his plans!
Scherer also objects that McCain "does support specific tax incentives for alternatives to oil," though his plan is, "on the whole, not as generous, or costly to taxpayers" as Obama’s.
(Side note: if you’re only allowed to look at plans, well then Obama pays for every cent of every program he proposes and cuts taxes for 95 percent of families. So how is his plan more "costly to taxpayers"?)
As it happens, the ad says McCain voted against “alternative energy,” not “alternatives to oil” (the former contains the latter). If you go to McCain’s site as Scherer urges, it’s true you find tax incentives for zero-carbon cars, along with massive support for nuclear and clean coal. But on renewable tax credits, there’s only this:
To develop [wind and solar] and other sources of renewable energy will require that we rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits that provide commercial feasibility. John McCain believes in an even-handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until the market transforms sufficiently to the point where renewable energy no longer merits the taxpayers’ dollars.
That is, you’ll note, hopelessly vague and noncommittal, but hey, it’s McCain’s plan — and that’s all Scherer says Obama is allowed to talk about. Obama’s not allowed to weigh this one vague paragraph against a life-long voting record that contradicts it.
Finally, Scherer objects that the "$4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies" Obama accuses McCain of supporting is a "nifty bit of misdirection," since the $4 billion would come from corporate tax cuts that would also benefit renewable energy corporations. It would just benefit them way, way less, since they are way, way smaller, and oil companies are the most profitable companies in history. So it’s a tax cut that would disproportionately benefit fossil fuels. Which is the point.
In short, the ad is correct both in its claims and in the overall impression it leaves. McCain really has voted against alternative energy; he really does favor oil companies.
Scherer should just acknowledge that he stepped on a rake, and move on. But I gather that’s now how they roll in Swampland.