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Saying What You Mean

Sen. Barack Obama is counterattacking Sen. John McCain on energy this morning, traversing Northeastern Ohio for two town halls on "New Energy for America." Obama got right to the point in Youngstown, blasting McCain as a a tool of the oil industry in prepared remarks:

Under Sen. McCain’s plan, the oil companies get billions more, we don’t pay any less at the pump and we stay in the same cycle of dependence on oil that got us into this crisis. The oil companies have placed their bet on Sen. McCain, and if he wins, they will continue to cash in while our families and our economy suffer… We can choose four years more of the same failed policies… Four years more of oil companies calling the shots, while hard-working families are struggling. That’s what Sen. McCain is offering.

Obama goes on to argue, "after one president in the pocket of the oil companies – we can’t afford another." This line is from his new ad, that says McCain is "in the pocket of big oil" — just like Bush. It’s probably the toughest attack ad that Obama has run — though that’s not saying much.

Politico’s Jonathan Martin calls it Obama’s "first unprompted negative commercial." Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, regularly mentioned as one of McCain’s VP possibilities, told CNN that the ad is "dishonest," because oil executives have donated to both candidates. The DNC piles on with a new video today, "Puppet Masters," casting John McCain as a weird little puppet of the oil industry. And finally, the Obama campaign released a second energy ad today, arguing that, after 26 years in Washington, McCain has a record of opposing alternative energy bills and fighting higher mileage standards.

The energy offensive covers Team Obama’s August priorities. It pushes back against McCain’s recent stream of negative ads, from Britney to Pump, (an oil drilling ad that ran in more markets than McCain’s media-hyped attack ads). It refocuses on pocketbook issues after the international trip. And it uses legitimate policy distinctions to suggest that McCain is a patsy — whether for the oil companies or Bush.

Yet this round of sparring continues a pattern that may concern Obama fans. Like so many presidential campaigns, the GOP is savaging the Democratic nominee’s character, with innuendo and personal attacks, while the Democratic campaign responds with stern policy lectures. The legislative history of U.S. energy policy may tell a story about McCain’s character — but it is circuitous at best. The core argument is that McCain values political expediency more than the welfare of the American people. He sells out for capital, be it financial –donations — or political — Bush and the conservatives he once denounced. In other words, Mccain can’t be trusted. If that’s Obama’s point, he should say so.

DNC Puppet Ad and McCain Gas Ad:

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