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McCain camp strikes at Obama's honesty

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
It wasn't just the Obama campaign on the attack today. The McCain campaign got in a few shots of its own.

"Because of his rapid ascent and the relative lack of record from which the American people can judge, the words that Barack Obama uses deserve a level of scrutiny befitting the importance that he places on them," writes McCain message maestro Steve Schmidt in a memo to reporters (see full memo after the jump.) "But when examined closely, more often than not these words are empty of any meaning in the light of his record and reality."

VIDEO: Flip-flopping on a prior pledge, Barack Obama says he's not going to take public funding for his White House bid. His opponent, John McCain blasts the decision. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

The memo goes on to hit Obama on public financing, "running a different type Of campaign," trade, taxes, the 2005 energy bill, Iraq and Jerusalem.

Some key shots: On public financing: "This change in position comes after nearly two years of speaking to and signing his name to his commitment to the public financing system. ... Yet, in the end, Barack Obama's words were empty and he decided to break his pledge to accept public financing in the general election.

On running a different type of campaign: "The McCain campaign has made a good faith effort to reach out to Barack Obama offering to go Iraq together and hold 10 joint town hall meetings. These offers came after Barack Obama pledged to meet "anywhere, anytime" However, Barack Obama has rejected each and every offer to raise the dialogue in this campaign. As the St. Petersburg Times wrote today, Barack Obama's words come down to "cynical political calculations," not the new politics he promised.

On Jerusalem: "Obama clearly said that Jerusalem should be the "undivided" capital of Israel. Barack Obama and his advisers knew what this word would mean to his audience. ... Yet, only a day later, Barack Obama said the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians. Barack Obama was no longer prepared to say that Jerusalem should be undivided."

And there's plenty more where that came from.

To:       Interested Parties
From:   Steve Schmidt, McCain 2008 Senior Advisor
Date:    June 20, 2008
Re:       Words Matter
 
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."
 
Because of his rapid ascent and the relative lack of record from which the American people can judge, 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.
 
As we scrutinize Barack Obama's words, it is increasingly difficult for those of us with the responsibility of following this year's election closely to discern what Obama truly believes at his core on the issues of great importance to the American people. 
 
Obama's Words On Public Financing: Just yesterday, Barack Obama reversed his position on accepting general election public financing. This change in position comes after nearly two years of speaking to and signing his name to his commitment to the public financing system.
 
In June 2006, Barack Obama said quite clearly, "I strongly support public financing":
 
OBAMA: "Well, I strongly support public financing. And I know [Senator] Dick [Durbin] does too. He's going to have some things to say about it because when we were having – as you'll recall – the major debates around lobbying reform, one of the things that Dick, I think, properly pointed out was that you can change the rules on lobbying here in Washington, but if we're still getting financed primarily from individual contributions, that those with the most money are still going to have the most influence." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Constituents Breakfast, 6/29/06)
 
In November 2007, Barack Obama signed his name to his commitment to accept public financing as his party's general election nominee:
 
QUESTION: "If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" OBAMA: "Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests." (Sen. Barack Obama, "Presidential Candidate Questionnaire," Midwest Democracy Network, www.commoncause.org, 11/27/07)
 
In February 2008, Barack Obama said that he would meet and "sit down with John McCain" to discuss and negotiate public financing were he to be his party's nominee:
 
NBC'S TIM RUSSERT: "So you may opt out of public financing. You may break your word." Obama: "What I – what I have said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody." (Democratic Presidential Debate, Cleveland, OH, 2/26/08)
 
Yet, in the end, Barack Obama's words were empty and he decided to break his pledge to accept public financing in the general election.
 
Obama's Words On Running A Different Type Of Campaign: The McCain campaign has made a good faith effort to reach out to Barack Obama offering to go Iraq together and hold 10 joint town hall meetings. These offers came after Barack Obama pledged to meet "anywhere, anytime":
 
OBAMA: "I am happy to have a debate with John McCain and George Bush about foreign policy. If John McCain wants to meet me anywhere, anytime, to have a debate about our respective policies in Iraq, Iran, the Middle East or around the world, that is a conversation I am happy to have. Because I believe that there is no separation between John McCain and George Bush when it comes to our Middle East policy and I think their policy has failed." (Barack Obama, Media Availability, Watertown, SD, 5/16/08)
 
However, Barack Obama has rejected each and every offer to raise the dialogue in this campaign. As the St. Petersburg Times wrote today, Barack Obama's words come down to "cynical political calculations," not the new politics he promised:
 
"Avoiding town hall meetings and rejecting public campaign financing may be predictable strategies for minimizing one of McCain's greatest strengths and exploiting one of his key weaknesses. But they pull Obama down into the cynical political calculations he pledged to rise above." (Editorial, "Obama's Big Words Ring Hollow," St. Petersburg Times, 6/20/08)
 
Obama's Words On The 2005 Energy Bill: As part of his standard stump speech, Barack Obama criticizes the Bush-Cheney energy policy. However, not spoken is the fact that he voted for the Bush-Cheney energy policy in 2005.
 
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama has criticized the Bush-Cheney energy bill:
 
OBAMA: "When Bush assigned Cheney to create energy policy, he met with the environmental groups once, the renewable energy groups once, he met with the oil and gas companies 40 times. Washington has become so dominated by the powerful, by the well-connected, that the voices of the American people are no longer heard." (Barack Obama, Remarks, Detroit, MI, 6/16/08)
 
This is good rhetoric but it does not match the record. The energy policy that he assails for being a Bush-Cheney creation for the benefit of the oil companies is the very same energy policy he voted for in the 2005 Energy Bill. Again, Barack Obama's words on energy are empty and actually contrary to his own public record.
 
Obama's Words On Trade: Barack Obama claims that he believes in free trade. However, a headline in the Detroit Free Press captures the internal conflict of Barack Obama's words – "Obama Tries to Have it Both Ways on Free Trade Issue." Barack Obama says, "I believe in free trade" but "then he reverted to the anti-trade rhetoric of the primaries." We all recall Obama adviser Austin Goolsbee dismissing his candidate's own rhetoric as primary politics.  In light of this, Barack Obama's words on the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deserve even greater scrutiny.
 
During the primaries, Barack Obama pledged to unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA:
 
NBC'S TIM RUSSERT: "A simple question. Will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, this [NAFTA] has not worked for us, we are out?" OBAMA: "I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced." (Sen. Barack Obama, MSNBC Democrat Presidential Debate, Cleveland, OH, 2/26/08)
 
However, in the general election, Barack Obama is backing off these words which were pretty clear. Now, Barack Obama says his words are not to be believed if they are "overheated and amplified."
 
"In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA. '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." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)
 
Obama's Words On His Tax Hikes: Barack Obama has made tax increases a centerpiece of his economic agenda. However, when asked by CNBC's John Harwood if he would be willing to hold off on raising taxes if he thought they might harm the economy, Barack Obama said:
 
OBAMA: "Some of those, you could possibly defer. But I think the basic principle of restoring fairness to our economy and encouraging bottom-up economic growth is important." (CNBC, 6/9/08)
 
This is a tacit acknowledgment that his tax increases would hurt the economy and American workers.  Likewise, Barack Obama consistently attacks John McCain for favoring "tax breaks to corporations." Yet, he recently told The Wall Street Journal that he too was considering cutting corporate taxes. Just last month, Barack Obama called corporate tax cuts "the exact wrong prescription for America."  On one day, Barack Obama took two positions on one issue, again leaving observers and voters unsure of what he really believes.
 
Obama's Words On Iraq: Throughout the primaries, Barack Obama has been determined to withdraw from Iraq regardless of the consequences or the facts on the ground.  This week, Barack Obama talked with the Iraqi Foreign Minister.  According to The Washington Post, the Foreign Minister left the conversation "reassured" and thinking "that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain."
 
The ABC News headline captures this perplexing issue clearly: "Obama and Iraqi Foreign Minister have Different Memories of their Conversation." In our foreign policy, we cannot afford a president whose public words are discounted by allies and enemies alike.
 
Obama's Words On Jerusalem: For weeks, debate has swirled around Barack Obama's use of the word "undivided" in his speech before the Annual AIPAC Policy Conference. In the end, the American people are left with a confused position that is constantly being reinterpreted by advisors because "undivided" was nothing more than an empty word with great symbolism but no weight.
 
Before the Annual AIPAC Policy Conference, Barack Obama clearly said that Jerusalem should be the "undivided" capital of Israel. Barack Obama and his advisers knew what this word would mean to his audience.
 
OBAMA: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At The Annual AIPAC Policy Conference, Arlington, VA, 6/4/08)
 
Yet, only a day later, Barack Obama said the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians. Barack Obama was no longer prepared to say that Jerusalem should be undivided.
 
CNN'S CANDY CROWLEY: "I want to ask you about something you said in AIPAC yesterday. You said that Jerusalem must remain undivided. Do Palestinians have no claim to Jerusalem in the future?" OBAMA: "Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues." (CNN's "The Situation Room," 6/5/08)

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*** UPDATE *** The RNC also hit Obama hard on the topics with a research memo, entitled, "THIS WEEK IN CHANGE: Is Breaking Promises And Straddling Positions On Key Issues Change We Can Believe In?" (See full memo below).
 
PUBLIC FINANCING
 
Yesterday, Barack Obama Announced He Will Opt Out Of The Public Financing System In The General Election:
 
Obama Has Declined Public Financing In The General Election, Calling It A "Broken System." "In a web video emailed to supporters, Obama asks his supporters to help him 'declare our independence from a broken system.' Of course, it's not so much a broken system that explains why he's passing on the FEC's $80+million. He will easily raise more than he could ever get in public funding." (Jonathan Martin, "Obama Opts Out Of Public Financing," The Politico's "Jonathan Martin" Blog, www.politico.com, 6/19/08)
 
But Earlier In His Presidential Campaign, Obama Claimed To Support The Public Financing System:
 
"Mr. Obama Was The Candidate Who Proposed The [Public Financing] Pledge In The First Place, In February 2007, A Time When He Was Not Raising The Prodigious Sums He Is Now." (Elisabeth Bumiller, "Skirmishing By McCain And Obama On Financing," The New York Times, 2/15/08)
 
In April 2008, Obama Claimed He "Would Be Very Interested In Pursuing Public Financing..." Fox News' Chris Wallace: "If you can get that agreement, you would go for a publicly financed campaign?" Obama: "What I don't intend to do is to allow huge amounts of money to be spent by the RNC, the Republican National Committee, or by organizations like the Swift Boat organization, and just stand there without -- (cross talk)." Wallace: "But if you get that agreement?" Obama: "I would be very interested in pursuing public financing, because I think not every candidate is going to be able to do what I've done in this campaign, and I think it's important to think about future campaigns." (Fox News' "Fox News Sunday," 4/27/08)
 
In Response To A 2007 Questionnaire, Obama Said He Would Accept Public Funding In General Election. Question: "If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" Obama: "Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests." (Sen. Barack Obama, "Presidential Candidate Questionnaire," Midwest Democracy Network, www.commoncause.org, 11/27/07)
 
· Obama Even Referred To His Plan As A "Fundraising Pledge" For His Opponents To Accept. Obama: "In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge." (Sen. Barack Obama, "Presidential Candidate Questionnaire," Midwest Democracy Network, www.commoncause.org, 11/27/07)
 
The Washington Post: "Pardon the sarcasm. But given Mr. Obama's earlier pledge to 'aggressively pursue' an agreement with the Republic an nominee to accept public financing, his effort to cloak his broken promise in the smug mantle of selfless dedication to the public good is a little hard to take." (Editorial, "The Politics Of Spare Change," The Washington Post, 6/20/08)
 
NAFTA
 
Fortune Magazine Reported Obama No Longer Planned To Reopen NAFTA Unilaterally And Admitted His Rhetoric Had Been "Overheated And Amplified":
 
"In An Interview With Fortune To Be Featured In The Magazine's Upcoming Issue, The Presumptive Democratic Nominee Backed Off His Harshest Attacks On The Free Trade Agreement And Indicated He Didn't Want To Unilaterally Reopen Negotiations On NAFTA." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)
 
"Now, However, Obama Says He Doesn't Believe In Unilaterally Reopening NAFTA. On The Afternoon That I Sat Down With Him To Discuss The Economy, Obama Said He Had Just Spoken With Harper, Who Had Called To Congratulate Him On Winning The Nomination." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)
 
· Obama: "I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally. ... I'm a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)
 
Obama Admitted His Primary Rhetoric Was "Overheated And Amplified." "'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." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)
 
But Campaigning In Ohio During The Primary, Obama Attacked NAFTA Repeatedly As Bad For America And Threatened To Withdraw Unilaterally From The Free Trade Agreement:
 
In February, Obama Pledged To Renegotiate NAFTA With The Threat Of Withdrawing Unless It Was Renegotiated. "In their final head-to-head meeting before Tuesday's Ohio and Texas primaries, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) declared that they would opt out of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico unless those two countries renegotiated the pact's labor and environmental provisions to the United States' liking." (Editorial, "At Best, A Pander," The Washington Post, 3/1/08)
 
Obama: "I Don't Think NAFTA Has Been Good For America - And I Never Have." Obama: "Ten years after NAFTA passed, Senator Clinton said it was good for America. ... Well, I don't think NAFTA has been good for America - and I never have." (David Espo, "Obama Hits Clinton On NAFTA Support," The Associated Press, 2/24/08)
 
CORPORATE TAXES
 
Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal Reported Obama Favors Reducing Corporate Taxes:
 
The Wall Street Journal Reported That Obama Would Consider Lowering Corporate Taxes. "Sen. Obama's nod to lowering corporate taxes comes as Republicans have been attacking him for proposals that would raise the cost of doing business, such as his pledge to raise the tax rate on capital gains, and his vow to increase the top income-tax rates, which are often used by small, unincorporated enterprises. He didn't say how deeply he would cut the rate, but said it could be trimmed in return for reducing corporate tax breaks, simplifying the tax system." (Bob Davis and Amy Chozick, "Obama Plans Spending Boost, Possible Cut In Business Tax," The Wall Street Journal, 6/17/08)
 
Just Last Month, Obama Called Corporate Tax Cuts "The Exact Wrong Prescription For America":
 
Obama On Sen. McCain's Economic Proposals: "And his proposals, which are essentially $300 billion worth of corporate tax cuts ... I think is the exact wrong prescription for America." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 5/4/08)
 
IRAQ WITHDRAWAL
 
In His Discussion With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama Claimed That He Would Consult With Iraqi Leaders And U.S. Military Commanders On His Plans For Withdrawal:
 
Obama Told Zebari That He Would Not Make Any "Irresponsible" Decisions That Would Endanger Gains In Iraq And Would Consult With The Iraqi Government And U.S. Military Commanders On His Plans. "Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that 'if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field.'" (Editorial, "Mr. Zebari's Message," The Washington Post, 6/18/08)
 
Previously, Obama Committed To Removing Troops From Iraq Regardless Of What Military Commanders Advised:
 
Obama Committed To Withdrawing Troops From Iraq Regardless Of The Advice He Received From Commanders On The Ground. ABC's Charles Gibson: "And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, 'When he is' -- this is talking about you - 'When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that.' So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?" Obama: "Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interes ting about the president's approach lately has been to say, 'Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus.' Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission." (Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Philadelphia, PA, 4/16/08)
 
DEATH PENALTY FOR OSAMA BIN LADEN?
 
On Wednesday, Obama Said That If Bin Laden Were Captured, He Would Not Make Him A "Martyr":
 
Obama: "I think what would be important would be for us to deal with him in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he's engaged in and not to make him into a martyr." (Caren Bohan, "Obama: U.S. Should Avoid Making Bin Laden A Martyr," Reuters, 6/18/08)
 
But In The Illinois State Senate, Obama Supported Legislation Making Terrorists Eligible For The Death Penalty:
 
Obama Voted In Favor Of Legislation That "Provides For The Imposition Of The Death Penalty If The Murder Was Committed As A Result Of Or In Connection With The Offense Of Terrorism." (H.B. 2299: Senate Floor Third Reading, Passed, 55-0-1, 11/28/01, Obama Voted Yea)
 
"An Anti-Terrorism Plan That Passed The Illinois Senate ... Makes Terrorists Eligible For The Death Penalty, Expands The State's Wire-Tapping Authority And Could Send Someone To Prison For Getting On A Plane With A Gun." (John Patterson, "Anti-Terrorism Bill Clears One Hurdle In Legislature," Chicago Daily Herald, 11/29/01)