Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Silent Support for Steelworker Ad

We’re several days into the controversy about the Priorities USA steelworker ad, and the Obama campaign has repeatedly declined to condemn it. Campaign staffers have said they don’t know enough about Joe Soptic’s story to comment (even though they organized a conference call for Soptic to share the same story with reporters in May). They’ve also argued that the ad is being run by a super PAC that’s unconnected to the campaign, and therefore Obama has no responsibility for it.

Would the Obama campaign have bought the same excuse from its opponents? Of course not — in fact, the campaign has previously demanded that its opponents denounce sleazy attacks from outside supporting groups.

Remember the outrage after the New York Times report that a conservative super PAC was considering an ad proposal that revived the Reverend Wright controversy? Here was the response from the Obama campaign:

“Stunning! Will Mitt stand up, as John McCain did? Or allow the purveyors of slime to operate on his behalf?” David Axelrod, a senior campaign adviser to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter early Thursday morning. …

“This morning’s story revealed the appalling lengths to which Republican operatives and Super PACs apparently are willing to go to tear down the president and elect Mitt Romney,” Mr. Messina wrote.

He added: “It also reflects how far the party has drifted in four short years since John McCain rejected these very tactics. Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party.”

The Wright ad was never even in the works, it was simply one proposal out of many. And unlike Priorities USA, the super PAC in question wasn’t run by a former Romney staffer.

Unlike Priorities USA, the super PAC in question wasn’t run by a former Romney staffer. And yet the Obama campaign held Romney responsible for an ad campaign that never even made it past the proposal stage. Even when Romney quickly condemned the ad proposal, the Obama campaign blasted his response as too tepid and jeered that he wasn’t even willing to stand up to his conservative supporters.

Note also that Obama actually sat in Rev. Wright’s church for 20 years, so that ad would have been far more fair and accurate than the Priorities USA commercial.

At Fox News, Chris Stirewalt also flags a 2007 quote from Obama, calling on John Edwards to ask a supporting outside group to stop running an attack ad:

“If [then-Obama communications director] Robert Gibbs started running a [independent political expenditure group] and I called Robert Gibbs and said, ‘Stop running ads on my behalf,’ are you suggesting I would have no influence over Robert Gibbs?”

– Then Sen. Barack Obama, as quoted by Politico, in West Des Moines, Iowa in December of 2007 attacking opponent John Edwards for negative ads being run by an outside group run by a former Edwards aide.

Judging from past comments from both the president and his campaign, if Obama remains silent on the Priorities USA ad, it should be assumed  he approves of it.