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McCain and Obama Trade Ads, Disinformation.

Apparently, Sen. John McCain doesn’t like it when he’s on the receiving end of false or misleading attacks. His campaign’s rapid response team kept busy today, putting together a new ad rebutting one released by the Obama camp earlier today. The Obama ad basically blames McCain for the precarious situation faced by more than 8,000 Ohioans who face the possible loss of their jobs because of a proposed deal between shipping giants DHL and UPS. FactCheck.org, the non-partisan fact-checking Website from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, immediately released a report taking issue with Sen. Barack Obama’s ad. From the report:

Ads from the AFL-CIO and the Obama campaign claim that McCain is partly to blame for the loss of more than 8,000 jobs in Ohio. They paint a false picture.

There’s at least some truth in both ads: German-based DHL announced a deal that could result in 8,200 lost jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. And McCain did in fact oppose an amendment that would have kept DHL from buying Wilmington-based Airborne Express. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, was also a DHL lobbyist charged with easing the merger through the Senate.

But the ads go too far. Some statements about McCain are misleading and some of the inferences the ads invite are unsubstantiated:

Unsupported elementNode please report to admin:

{"type":"text","text":"The ads charge that McCain opposition to a 2003 amendment helped DHL and amounted to turning his back on workers. That’s misleading. McCain said he opposed a version of the amendment because it was a special project inserted into an unrelated bill, not to help DHL. And the Teamsters union praised the merger at the time, saying that it would lead to more jobs. And at first, more jobs indeed followed.  "}

The ads also imply that the DHL merger is a direct cause of the job losses in Ohio, which we find to be both unlikely and unsubstantiated. Airborne Express had laid off 2,000 employees before the merger, and analysts at the time said that the struggling carrier would need to make expensive investments in its international infrastructure to remain competitive.

PRODUCTION NOTES: McCain’s ad, titled “Maybe,” essentially relies on FactCheck.org’s analysis to debunk Obama’s spot. The ad begins with photos of Obama from his speech in Germany as a crowd chants “Obama, Obama.” An announcer suggests “all the applause may have gone to his head,” prompting him to blame McCain for the situation in Ohio, while on-screen text quotes the words “False” and “Misleading” from the Website’s analysis. Ironically, after chastising Obama’s false information, the announcer makes a misleading claim of his own:

*It’s Obama’s taxes that will hurt Ohio families. *

Higher taxes on your paycheck, your life savings, your electric bills

This is true, for Ohio families that make more than $250,000 — and Obama does not deny that. However, an analyst from the conservative Heritage Foundation told the New York Sun that Obama’s tax plan will lower taxes for the middle class more than McCain’s plan:

A senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Rea Hederman Jr., praised Mr. Obama for proposing a 20 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains, lower than a 28 percent rate he had initially floated, though still more than the current 15 percent rate. “That’s a great step in the right direction,” Mr. Hederman said. “It’s a big change from what we thought the Obama tax plan would be at the beginning of the summer.”

Mr. Hederman said the middle class would likely pay less under Mr. Obama’s plan than Mr. McCain’s but that the Democrat was excessively reliant on complicated tax breaks that would make the tax code more confusing. “Instead of a grab bag of tax credits, lower the marginal rates,” Mr. Hederman said.

McCain’s decision to use FactCheck.org also opens him up to an obvious problem — the Website has issued numerous reports citing his own ads for spreading false or misleading information about Obama. Since the campaign obviously views FactCheck.org as a credible source of information, perhaps McCain should take this opportunity to correct all the disinformation his campaign has spread about his opponent.

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