Leahy is featured in McCain ad attacking Obama
By DANIEL BARLOW Vermont Press Bureau | September 09,2008
MONTPELIER — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy appears in a new political advertisement with Democratic nominee for president Barack Obama, but it's not the way either man probably anticipated.
Leahy, Vermont's senior senator and a consistent thorn in the side of President Bush's administration, appears briefly in Republican presidential nominee John McCain's new anti-Obama television advertisement called "The Temple."
An image of the Vermont politician is shown among a parade of other Senate Democrats as the McCain campaign attempts to prove that he is the candidate who will bring change to Washington, D.C.
Leahy's image appears at the same time as the words "More of the same" in the advertisement.
"It's not change, it's more of the same," McCain's advertisement states. "Obama and his liberal allies … not ready to lead."
Leahy seems an unlikely target for the McCain campaign, although he is a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, outpacing even the time that the Arizona senator has spent in D.C. And he has been a vocal supporter of Obama's campaign since the primary season.
Despite being the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee since the national Democrats retained control of Congress, however, Leahy may be best known to most Americans as that guy at the dinner party in the new Batman film who stood up to Heath Ledger's Joker character.
Edward Pagano, Leahy's chief of staff, said if by "more of the same" McCain is talking about "abiding by the rule of law," then Leahy wears his appearance in the advertisement as a "badge of honor."
Pagano said the relationship between Leahy and McCain has been friendly over the years and noted that the two senators have worked on some bills together.
"I assume that this ad was created by someone within the Beltway who is not familiar with Sen. Leahy and his record," he said.
McCain's latest advertisement seeks to ridicule Obama for the stage design at the convention center where he accepted his party's nomination for president last month. It comes after the campaign released several other ads attacking Obama for allegedly being a celebrity with little substance.
Leahy's image also appears in another anti-Obama ad created by the McCain camp. Using similar visuals as those contained in "The Temple" ad, this earlier one attacked Senate Democrats for allegedly planning a series of expensive federal projects. Leahy's image appears in that ad as the words, "no balanced budgets" flash across the screen.
A representative from the McCain campaign would not answer why Leahy's image was chosen for the ad. When asked about his inclusion, McCain's New England Communications Director Jeff Grappone instead criticized Obama.
"Barack Obama cannot point to a single significant bipartisan achievement," Grappone said. "This piece shows Obama for what he is, a politician who puts his party ahead of his country."
The Obama campaign did not return a call for comment Monday, but Liz Saxe, the communications director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said national Republicans are pretending that their candidates didn't spend the last 26 years in Washington.
"The McCain-Palin ticket offers little more than more of the same," Saxe said. "But we know that Vermonters are excited about Obama."
Political pundits in Vermont and nationally seem to be scratching their heads over the inclusion of Leahy in the advertisement.
Vermont writer Phillip Baruth, a liberal blogger, wrote on his Vermont Daily Briefing blog Saturday that the Obama camp should respond with an advertisement showing Leahy's famous scene in the latest Batman film.
"Suggested Obama attack ad: clip from 'Dark Knight,' with Leahy saying, through clenched teeth, 'We're not afraid of thugs like you,'" Baruth wrote. "That's it. That and Obama closing with, 'I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.'"
Politico.com blogger Jonathan Martin notes that one problem with McCain's ad is that few people will recognize the series of older, white male Democrats in the Senate being used as legislative boogey-men.
"The problem for Republicans is that few Americans will have a visceral reaction to images of Byron Dorgan or Pat Leahy," Martin wrote. "The two Senate Democrats who would most likely resonate are off-limits for McCain: Ted Kennedy, by virtue of his illness, and Hillary Clinton, because of the GOP's desire to appeal to her 18 million voters."
Contact Daniel Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org.