The Phony Campaign

2008-03-02 Update

Obama crashes back to earth after his brief phony lead, and Huckabee finds himself, for the first time, in the coveted number one phony spot this week:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Mike Huckabee" phony241,000-7,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony236,000+8,000
"Barack Obama" phony207,000-323,000
"John McCain" phony193,000+14,000

In fact, the phony race is tighter than ever.

  • We haven't shown Huck much Pun Salad love. But we are suckers for self-deprecating humor, and his bit on last week's Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" segment was a classic of that genre. If you missed it:

  • The big phoniness for Clinton has been her "3am phone call" ad:

    The phoniness here speaks for itself, but managed to be compounded during a press conference call with Clinton's top campaign officials, when John Dickerson asked an obvious question, as reported by Jennifer Skalka of the National Journal:

    "What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?" he said.

    Silence on the call. You could've knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton's national security director, to find a cogent answer. And what they came up with was weak -- that she's been endorsed by many high ranking members of the uniformed military.

    (Aside: I think someone meant retired military. I'm pretty sure a political endorsement from active military is a no-no.)

    Also see Prof Althouse on the subliminal racial epithet contained in the 3am ad. Such is the Althousian genius, I'm not sure whether she's kidding.

  • When Harvard econ prof Greg Mankiw refers to Obama's economic advisors as a "great group," that carries a lot of weight. But that group includes Chicago econ prof Austan Goolsbee who got caught up in controversy about what he did or didn't say about NAFTA to Canadian officials.
    The latest from Canadian Television (LINK) on that story that a senior member of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign team had reached out to the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. to tell him not to take seriously Obama's fiery anti-NAFTA rhetoric includes questions about a conversation on this subject between Obama senior economic adviser Austan Goolsbee and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago. […]

    ABC News' Jennifer Parker spoke to Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economics professor, Thursday who would not confirm or deny that he had a conversation with Georges Rioux, the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago. Rioux, in meetings this week in Ottawa, would also neither confirm nor deny any conversation took place. Both men did say that they know each other.

    Riiiight. Megan McArdle quotes from the above, and comments:
    Well, I certainly hope [Obama is] lying, because I think he's going to be the next president of the United States. But of course, as I've said before, I do not like it that politicians seem to feel the need to lie shamelessly to the electorate.
    We live in interesting times when you have to hope that the odds-on favorite to win the Presidency is lying.

  • The featured phoniness from the McCain campaign this week is is small in comparison but (unfortunately) telling. It's long been reported that McCain despises Brad Smith, a critic of McCain-style campaign finance reform, (hence) a First Amendment champion. Byron York interviewed Smith in 2005 at the end of Smith's tenure at the Federal Elections Commission:
    "McCain has always refused to meet with me," Smith says. "I tried to meet him once at a public hearing. He was at the table, and I went up and I said, 'Senator,' and I held out my hand. And he instinctively took my hand, and then he looked up and realized who it was, and he yanked his hand away and said, "I'm not going to shake your hand. You're a bully and a coward, and you have no regard for the Constitution. I don't have to talk to you. I'm not going to talk to you.' It was right in front of a large number of people, so I don't think he wants to talk to me."

    "He said you were a bully and a coward?"

    "Uh-huh. And corrupt, too. He always calls me corrupt. And my wife says, 'If you're corrupt, you're the worst corrupt person I've ever seen. Where are the fur coats? The watches? The cars? The fancy trips?'"

    Recently Paul Mirengoff of Power Line reported on a blogger conference call with McCain:
    … I asked how McCain feels today about his refusal to shake the hand of Brad Smith, the former FEC commissioner with whom he clashed over campaign finance. I was hoping that McCain would answer to the effect that bygones were bygones. Instead, the Senator stood by his conduct, stating that Smith had savaged his character and his integrity on many occasions, so that there was no reason to shake his hand.
    Only problem with that is, as Paul's co-blogger Scott Johnson points out, one can look high and low without finding a single instance where Brad Smith has impugned McCain's character or integrity.
    I called Professor Smith this morning to ask him for a comment. Professor Smith was mystified and amused. He said he laughed out loud when he read Senator McCain's comments, viewing them as a projection of Senator McCain's treatment of him. He recalled having criticized Senator McCain's understanding of the issues implicated by campaign finance regulation, but nothing aimed at Senator McCain's character.
    While Smith has not criticized McCain's character, I'm perfectly happy to: McCain's a jerk. Yes, he's a hero, and admirable in many ways. And I'll probably be voting for him, with one hand holding my nose, in November. But still: he's a jerk.

Last Modified 2014-07-06 11:06 PM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 7am on TNT: Bad Boys (Will Smith)
  • 10am on FX: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (Bruce Willis)
  • 2pm on A&E: Star Wars: Empire of Dreams (Harrison J. Ford)
  • 730pm on AMC: In the Line of Fire (Clint Eastwood)
Theory status: so far unrefuted.