Under the (somewhat funny) headline “Subtler Entry from Masters of Attack Ads,” Peters makes it sound like this is something of a scoop, and certainly a pretty big deal:
When it makes its debut Wednesday in 10 swing states as the centerpiece of a $25 million campaign, it is expected to become one of the most heavily broadcast political commercials of this phase of the general election.
So what do Times readers learn?
We get the inside scoop on the focus-group process that Rove’s group used to create the ad.
We learn about how they made a different kind of attack ad, since Obama remains more personally popular than his policies. Apparently the kind of attack they might normally make wouldn’t resonate with middle-of-the-road voters.
We learn that using a “fictional family also allowed for more creative flexibility in creating a rebuttal to the president’s message that although things may not be great, the country is moving in the right direction.”
And, perhaps most important, we learn that the ad is “a deeply researched, delicately worded story of a struggling family.” That’s the kind of language Crossroads GPS might consider using the next time they need to pitch their donors for additional funding (“Even the liberal New York Times says our ad was deeply researched…”).
But is the ad’s content… accurate? Arguably so? Misleading? Who knows. The Times includes one short comment from the Obama campaign, but that’s about it.
The actual ad–all of one minute–makes a series of fairly routine conservative claims about runaway spending, Obamacare making health insurance more expensive, and so on. None of it would qualify as deeply researched–these are TV commercials, after all. But is it true? Not really true? Totally false? Those are the things a newspaper should tell readers, right? The kind of market research the ad’s creators did is perhaps interesting to someone, I suppose, but of little consequence.
Steve Kornacki of Salon.com (5/22/12) attempts to settle some of this in one paragraph:
The Cliff’s Notes version of what’s wrong with this: (1) There’s been no spending explosion under Obama; (2) the increase in debt under Obama can be traced to the economic crash (which dramatically reduced federal revenue), the wars, the Bush tax cuts (which, yes, Obama agreed to extend–at the insistence of Republicans), the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, and only to a very minor extent the 2009 stimulus; and (3) the economy would actually be in better shape now if Obama had spent more.
Now I’m not saying this is a perfect, slam dunk takedown of the ad. There’s probably no such thing. But it’s at least an attempt to sort out the claims made in the ad, and set them against reality.
Now it’s possible the Times will run a “fact check” sidebar, if they haven’t already, about the ad’s claims. But it won’t much matter. They just told their readers that it was “deeply researched.”