McCain ad dismissive of rival's 'beautiful words'

July 8, 2008 6:54:13 PM PDT
TITLE: "Love." LENGTH: 60 seconds

AIRING: National cable and Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and Wisconsin.

SCRIPT: Announcer: "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.

"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.

"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. McCain.

McCain: "I'm John McCain and I approved this message."

KEY IMAGES: Scenes from the late 1960s ? demonstrations, the Woodstock music festival. Black-and-white footage of a military plane on a mission fades to a still shot of McCain in his flight suit. A photograph of the wreckage of his shot-down plane in North Vietnam gives way to clips of McCain recovering from his wounds in captivity. The ad's tone and imagery then shift to the United States: McCain as a Navy liaison to the Senate with Sens. John Glenn, D-Ohio, Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., and William Cohen, a Maine Republican and best man at McCain's wedding. McCain is shown being greeted by Ronald and Nancy Reagan, standing before a mountain wearing a Navy baseball cap, silhouetted against the sky as he answers a cell phone, speaking in front of an American flag, greeting well-wishers, touring New Orleans and stumping on the campaign trail. The ad ends with McCain in profile superimposed over a clip of a much younger McCain, saluting upon his release from Vietnam.

ANALYSIS: With a minute-long ad, McCain's campaign covers much ground: His 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his time as a senator and a not-so-veiled dismissal of rival Barack Obama's campaign as one of words, not substance. The strong subtext: McCain has sacrificed; Obama has not. The risker subtext: Vote for action, not hope.

This is the second ad since McCain secured the nomination that features his captivity in Vietnam. The commercial plays to one of McCain's most recognizable attributes ? the former prisoner of war who withstood torture and declined an early release ahead of other POWs. On issues facing the country, McCain trails Obama in the polls except on who best would handle national security and Iraq ? an image partly bolstered by the public's recognition of McCain as a former warrior. But with its references to the "Summer of Love" and Woodstock, McCain also risks dating himself ? a little more than half the U.S. population wasn't even born when the 1960s images in McCain's ad were shot.

McCain also seeks to capitalize on his image as politician who did not always follow the party line. The ad correctly asserts that he led changes in campaign finance laws and spending practices, to the dismay of many of his fellow Republicans. While the ad also mentions he has taken on presidents, McCain has also reconsidered some of his past defiance. For instance, McCain opposed President Bush's tax cuts but now says he would extend them. In 2005, he sided with Bush on legislation 77 percent of the time, a very low frequency rate for a Republican. Last year, however, he was much more on board, voting with Bush 95 percent of the time.

The ad's claim that the economy is "a shambles" is a more stark appraisal than McCain has offered in the past. In a Jan. 30 debate sponsored by CNN, McCain said: "I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened. A lot of jobs have been created." He then added: "Things are tough right now. Americans are uncertain about this housing crisis. ...We are in a very serious challenge right now, with a lot of Americans very uncertain about their future, and we've got to give them some comfort."