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McCain to Obama: Words Matter

It looks as though the McCain campaign is developing a new theme for its attacks on Sen. Barack Obama. As in the infamous "That’s not change we can believe in" speech in New Orleans a few weeks ago, Sen. John McCain is looking to turn Obama’s words against him. Following a jab in February from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that implied Obama was all talk and little substance, the Illinois senator responded with a speech in Wisconsin titled, "Don’t tell me words don’t matter."

As The Swamp reports, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt wrote a memo yesterday titled "Words Matter." It laid out the history of Obama’s statements on whether he would participate in the general election public funding program, before he changed course and announced he would opt out of the system. From the memo:

Barack Obama’s rapid ascent to the Democratic presidential nomination is nothing short of remarkable and historic. Much of this rise can be traced to the power of Barack Obama’s spoken and written words. As Barack Obama said during the primaries, "Don’t tell me words don’t matter."

… the words that Barack Obama uses deserve a level of scrutiny befitting the importance that he places on them. But when examined closely, more often than not these words are empty of any meaning in the light of his record and reality.

Today, news spread that Obama had made statements in a recent interview with Fortune that seem to back away from his previous tough talk on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself," he answered./p>

Obama says he believes in "opening up a dialogue" with trading partners Canada and Mexico "and figuring to how we can make this work for all people."

McCain issued this statement earlier today:

"For months, Barack Obama said that he would ‘make sure that we renegotiate’ NAFTA, demanded unilateral changes and threatened to unilaterally withdraw if he did not get his way. Barack Obama knew better. America has not had a protectionist president since Herbert Hoover, but Barack Obama held his position anyway to further his cynical political purposes in the primary campaign. Now he claims: ‘I’m not a big believer in doing things unilaterally.’ Barack Obama should know words matter — especially in a campaign based on rhetoric rather than a record of accomplishment. The American people and our allies deserve better than calculated efforts to re-invent positions to sound less irresponsible." [emphasis added]

With reversal on two key issues, Obama has given the GOP a lot of fodder for attack ads in the last 48 hours. He’s going to have to make it more difficult for them if he wants to make it through November with his credibility intact.

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