McCain: ‘I Didn't Go Negative Until Obama Did!’

John McCain
"What? Me, negative? It barely hurts me to smile!" Photo: Getty Images

John McCain is finally addressing the campaign meme that he's gone too negative on Barack Obama. There are big reports in today's New York Times and Washington Post that the presumptive GOP nominee's attacks on Obama — specifically regarding his decision not to visit injured troops on the European leg of his world tour — were misguided and perhaps harmful to himself. As a response, the campaign sent out talking points to their surrogates this morning on how to refute this line of thinking. The basic argument? Obama went negative first. From a letter we intercepted an hour ago:

We need to be clear, Barack Obama was the first of the two candidates to run a negative, attack ad. For months, Barack Obama has consistently attacked John McCain on the campaign trail as part of his regular stump speech and his surrogates have attacked John McCain's military service. John McCain will continue laying out his vision for a stronger America and talking about the differences between himself and Barack Obama.

Only The New York Times seems to think that their chosen One [capitalization theirs] is running a positive campaign that shouldn't have to explain his positions.

This is the gist of the rest of the e-mail:

• On July 8, Obama released an ad criticizing McCain's energy policy, calling him "part of the problem." This was in response to an ad three days earlier attacking Obama on the same issue — but paid for by the RNC, not McCain himself. Clever!
• Before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Obama said of McCain, "He deserves great credit as a champion of comprehensive reform. I admired him for it, and I know that he talked about that when he just spoke before you. But what he didn't mention is that when he was running for his party's nomination, he walked away from that commitment. He said that he wouldn't even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote." They list other, similarly phrased sound bites about immigration from other ethnic conferences.
• Obama surrogates, including Wesley Clark, Jay Rockefeller, George McGovern, and Tom Harkin, have argued that McCain's war experience doesn't necessarily qualify him to be president.

McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence [WP]
McCain Goes Negative, Worrying Some in G.O.P. [NYT]
Related: McCain’s Latest Attack on Obama Seems Not at All Desperate