RNC radio ad: Obama's war-funding vote

The RNC will air radio ads in Paris today while Barack Obama travels through Europe, much as they bought ads yesterday in Berlin.  However, in both cases the Parises and Berlins are in the US, a perhaps overly cute tweak at Obama’s campaigning outside of the US. However, the ad itself hits Obama on a vote that has received only a small amount of attention in this campaign:

As the Associated Press has reported, to commemorate Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin, Germany today the Republican National Committee is running a new ad in all three U.S. cities named Berlin — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

Now, first thing this morning, the RNC will announce that to continue the fun it’s expanded these misiscule buys to all the U.S. cities named Paris — in Maine, Michigan and Missouri. Because, you might guess, Obama will also visit another Paris, the one in France.

Here’s the ad:

There are few votes as important as funding our men and women in uniform. But when our military needed necessary resources, Barack Obama failed to stand up.

Obama said that nobody wanted to play chicken with our troops on the ground. But when it came time to act, he voted against critical resources: no to individual body armor, no to helicopters, no to ammunition, no to aircraft. The bill Obama opposed even had funding for veterans’ medical facilities and rehabilitation programs.

And why did he say no? Obama chose Washington politics over the needs of our military.

And Senator McCain? As a veteran and someone who has always put the public interest first, John McCain stood by our troops.

If Obama can’t rise above politics to support our soldiers in a time of war, then how can he claim to have the strength to change the way Washington works?

John McCain is ready to lead. Barack Obama is not.

People will remember this as the first big game of chicken between the new Democratic-controlled Congress and the Bush administration. The White House had asked for a new funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the first of the year. However, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid wanted to commit Bush to a firm timetable for withdrawal as a prerequisite for his funding, which Bush insisted he would veto. Pelosi and Reid passed that version anyway, attaching a number of poison pills that they thought Bush couldn’t veto — but Bush did anyway. By the time Congress got serious about funding the troops, the Pentagon was at risk of running out of money for the effort and threatened to start shutting down stateside operations to keep the troops in the war zone paid, and Reid and Pelosi had to finally acquiesce.

In the end, the most notable votes against the funding package came from Democratic presidential candidates.  Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Barack Obama all voted against it, although Joe Biden supported it.  The reason?  They wanted to maintain credibility with the anti-war Left and continue to argue against the surge in Iraq.  As the ad states, they basically politicized the funding for the troops in order to gain electoral advantage.  That certainly makes criticism of the vote germane as well.

However, some have tried to telescope this into a “vote against funding for Afghanistan,” which isn’t entirely accurate.  The Bush administration insists — for very good reasons — on funding both fronts simultaneously, and Congress has complied.  Under those circumstances, members cannot vote against Iraq funding while voting for Afghanistan, or the reverse.  The bill funded both, and the vote against HR 2206 has to be seen in that context.

Of course, that should be good enough.  Obama voted against funding operations that succeeded in reversing the wave of sectarian violence and put Iraq on the path to stability.  Even now, he struggles to explain his continued opposition to success in Iraq, and the RNC ad rightly avoids the notion that Obama specifically voted against operations in Afghanistan in favor of the larger point of political expediency.  It’s a good ad — and perhaps the RNC should consider running it as a TV ad in a larger area.