Critiquing McCain's New Ad
John McCain has released a new ad entitled “Love”. The ad has gotten mostly positive reviews, and most commentators seem to think that it is effective. The ad is undeniably helpful to McCain—but much of it is also wholly irrelevant.
The ad hits on McCain’s two biggest strengths: his military service and his maverickness. The military service part is hard to miss—the ad opens with the narrator saying:
It was a time of uncertainty, hope and change. The “Summer Of Love.” Half a world away, another kind of love — of country.
John McCain: Shot down. Bayoneted. Tortured. Offered early release, he said, “No.” He’d sworn an oath.
All accompanied, of course, with images of McCain’s bravery. (And note the sly digs at Obama's rhetoric--McCain links "hope" and "change" to the decadent Summer of Love. This, of course, could backfire if enough voters decide they like the Summer of Love).
There is no one who admires McCain’s heroism more than I. The sheer courage and fortitude required to withstand constant beatings and long periods of solitary confinement as McCain is beyond belief. John McCain is an American hero, and the story of his life shows his strength of character and bravery.
But heroism and character are not qualifications to the presidency. If they were, John Kerry (he exaggerated his service, but he did fight in Vietnam) and George McGovern (yes, he fought very bravely in World War II) would have made fine presidents. But however courageously they may have fought in their youth, their policies would have been disastrous for the country. McCain is no different—his service makes him a hero, but not necessarily a strong leader or a good president.
McCain’s service should be irrelevant, and looking at the matter logically it is, but it makes a difference to many undecided voters. (John Kerry’s candidacy was due in large part to his military service, which is why the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were such a disaster to his campaign). And if his military service attracts votes, it is hard to imagine that McCain would not capitalize on the issue. His inclusion of his military credentials as a qualification for the presidency does not reflect poorly on him, but rather upon the stupidity of so many American voters. Given the apathy that so many Americans display towards politics, it often seems that we do not deserve democracy.
The rest of the ad focuses McCain’s time in Washington, and actually hits many of the points I suggested in yesterday’s post (although of course this ad was conceived of long before I wrote that post). The ad goes on to say:
Home, he turned to public service.
His philosophy: before party, polls and self … America.
A maverick, John McCain tackled campaign reform, military reform, spending reform.
He took on presidents, partisans and popular opinion.
He believes our world is dangerous, our economy in shambles.
It seems that possibility McCain is going for the underdog maverick approach—the announcer really makes a point to stress the word “maverick”, and the ad is quick to mention all the people and institutions he’s gone up against.
The “service” part of the ad works fairly well, even if it is irrelevant, and the “maverick” part is effective too. But the conclusion of the ad is absolutely fantastic—it manages to neutralize Obama’s without seeming mean-spirited or petty.
John McCain doesn’t always tell us what we “hope” to hear.
Beautiful words cannot make our lives better. But a man who has always put his country and her people before self, before politics can. Don’t “hope” for a better life.
Vote for one.
This part of the ad is insightful, smart, and relevant. (Much of Obama’s “hope” and “change” rhetoric is no more relevant than McCain’s military service is—what does “we are the people we have been waiting for” even mean?). If McCain is to win, he will have to run a nearly perfect campaign. This ad is a good start.