The ad creator: Crossroads GPS, an arm of the Karl Rove-founded super PAC American Crossroads
The ad: The conservative advocacy group's spot plays off the disappointing June jobs report, saying that "Barack Obama's got lots of excuses for the bad economy." The ad then offers a rapid-fire video compilation of soundbites from the president's various speeches and interviews, in which he seems to pin some blame for the foundering economy on major events like the 2011 earthquake in Japan, the Arab Spring, and the European debt crisis, as well as more mundane things like ATMs and airport kiosks. Other choice quotes from the president: "We've had a string of bad luck" and "We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades." The female narrator finishes off by saying, "But Obama never blames Washington's wild spending and skyrocketing debt. Tell Obama, for real job growth, cut the debt."
The ad buy: The spot began airing on July 10 in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. "Excuses" is the first ad in Crossroads' $25 million campaign that will run through August.
The strategy: Of course, "fixing the struggling economy and creating jobs are the dominant issues in the presidential race," says the Associated Press, and "Obama is on the defensive over recent lackluster jobs reports." So given the president's weakness on jobs, the conservative group is trying to highlight the nation's "skyrocketing debt and flat-lined economy" to unseat Obama, says Crossroads president Steven Law.
The reaction: The ad "relies on a jumble of soundbites strung together," so it's difficult to figure out what Obama was actually trying to say in each case, says The Associated Press. "Europe's economic struggles and upheaval in the Middle East, for example, do at times impact the U.S. economy." The spot also "oversimplifies the role of federal debt in the broader economy." It's worse than that, says Ben Adler at The Nation. This ad is totally illogical and dishonest. The ballooning federal debt is growing for "reasons that are largely beyond Obama's control: The wars that Rove's former boss George W. Bush left for Obama to clean up [and] the irresponsible tax cuts Bush signed," among other things. Okay, but there is some truth behind conservative attacks on Obama's jobs record, says Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel. The unemployment rate remains high, and "thousands of workers have stopped looking for work during the recovery." Obama is hardly blameless.
The fallout: Team Obama lashed out at Crossroads, saying the nonprofit group wrongfully operates "like a political campaign," and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to force the group to disclose its donors. Meanwhile, the White House released a statement saying that the president "brought us back from the brink of another Depression, but he doesn't believe our work is done."
Watch the ad:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- Hey, grammar nerds! Stop freaking out about 'alot.'
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
Subscribe to the Week