Obama: Smearing Clinton—Via Indian-Americans
Obama claims he doesn’t do dirty politics, and for the most part, that seems to be true. There is one glaring exception: In June 2007 Obama’s campaign circulated to the media a memo, meant to be off the record, criticizing Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Indian businesses and Indian-American donors. The Clinton camp got hold of it and made it public. Intended to highlight Clinton’s backing of companies that outsource jobs, the document also insulted many Indian-Americans, who thought it implied that their money and businesses were somehow tainted. One headline—“Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)'s Personal Financial and Political Ties to India”—bluntly suggested that Clinton was so beholden to Indian interests that she practically represented them in the Senate. “The memo couldn't have been more ill-timed,” wrote the Daily News. “Obama angered the richest and best-educated of America's immigrant communities just as they are starting to flex their considerable political muscle for the first time in a presidential election.” Obama claims he wasn’t aware of the memo and apologized for its existence, telling the Des Moines Register that he thought it was “stupid and caustic.”
McCain: Suggesting George W. Was … a Pawn of Special Interests
McCain is not known for dirty politics, perhaps because he’s been blessed with few tight races. But when George W. Bush went negative in the 2000 presidential race, McCain joined right in—albeit in a less shockingly cutthroat manner. In the lead-up to the South Carolina primary, the Bush campaign and its supporters not only made claims that McCain didn’t care about veterans, but also that he had sired an illegitimate black child (McCain and his wife have an adopted Bangladeshi daughter). Soon enough, despite a promise not to go negative, McCain’s campaign ran ads likening Bush to Bill Clinton and claiming that he was a pawn of special interests (keep in mind that this was 2000, and the latter accusation actually occasioned some controversy). After the press took note of McCain's low blows, McCain made a show of pulling his negative ads, but the damage had already been done. "We may have underestimated the image the voters had developed of John McCain," McCain's communications director, Dan Schnur, told the Washington Post. "We didn't realize how much distance there was between John McCain and the typical politicians. The ads shortened the distance."