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A Brief History of Obama’s Seven Ad

John on August 21, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Yesterday, Politico posted a story that John McCain didn’t know how many houses he owned. It turns out he doesn’t own any directly. His wife Cindy owns at least eight, some of which are occupied by her children and some of which are investment properties. In any case, within 24 hours the Obama camp had produced a new ad titled “Seven” highlighting the gaffe and painting McCain as hopelessly out-of-touch with the common man.

As it happened, I had seen almost the same ad just a day before, this one by a liberal activist named Robert Greenwald. Greenwald, who produced a number of left wing documentaries, has produced about a dozen independent videos for You Tube, some of which have been viewed a quarter million times. His take on McCain’s houses is called “McCain’s Mansions.” Posted Aug. 17th, it was produced before the gaffe, so it doesn’t have the same currency as Obama’s version. It’s a more standard bit of class warfare.

But the coincidence got me wondering how long this particular bit of demagogurey had been floating around. Turns out it has quite a history. On August 7th, NY Senator Chuck Schumer indicated that Obama needed to hit McCain harder, saying in part:

It’s John McCain who wears $500 shoes, has six houses, and comes from one of the richest families in his state

The bit about the shoes was big for about a week in July. It started with this article on Huff Post and was transmitted far and wide, even making it into Us Magazine. The bit about McCain’s “six houses” was even more popular. It was picked up by the Obama campaign itself. On August 11th, just 4 days after Schumer suggested they use it, David Axelrod (Obama’s chief political strategist) was quoted by the NY Times saying:

Obviously, his strategists met on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona — or maybe in one of his six other houses — and decided what line of attack they were going to use.

In what must have been part of a coordinated attack, the Democratic National Committee issued a press release the next day (Aug. 12) which read in part:

As John McCain continues his “Job-Killing John” tour in Pennsylvania today, it’s clearer than ever how out of touch he is with working Americans. McCain is insulated from the economic struggles of most Americans. As Americans face the consequences of seven months of job losses and spiraling energy costs, John McCain, who owns seven houses, has said that there has “been great progress economically.”

It’s clear that by the 12th, the “seven houses” meme was part of a strategy to show McCain to be out of touch. And just one week later, McCain’s gaffe provides the perfect hook on which to press the theme with a new ad from Obama himself.

It’s hard to say where Schumer got his information on McCain’s “six houses.” All the way back in March, CNN reported on a barbecue at McCain’s Sedona home during which McCain himself described the 24 year history of the six houses on the property. But those were six houses on one property, not at all the same as the claim in Obama’s present ad.

There’s another possibility. Just a couple days before Schumer made his remarks, liberal commenter Rachael Maddow appeared on MSNBC’s Race for the White House, hosted by David Gregory. In defending Barack Obama from McCain’s ads she said (skip in one minute):

There’s a story to tell about John McCain…the guy with nine houses, the guy with $520 shoes, the guy that left his first wife and married the beer heiress.

Her remarks, which were picked up by many liberal blogs, sound alot like Schumer’s except that the number of houses dropped from nine to six. Whatever the case, the nine houses version traces all the way back to another made for You Tube video posted April 21st of this year. That video, titled The Fabulous Life of John McCain, was produced by Progressive Media USA. The exact line:

So what does that kind of riches buy you? Practically anything your heart desires. Nine properties from Arizona to Virginia with an estimated worth of over $13 million dollars, including a $2.7 million dollar condo on gorgeous Coronado island.

Sadly, PM USA is now defunct but never fear, founder Tom Matzzie recently made the news with his latest liberal group, Accountable America. AA has abandoned videos and instead plans to send “warning letters” to potential Republican donors indicating all the nasty things that might happen to them.

So there it is, a brief history of Obama’s Seven ad. It started with one of the most despicable figures in left-wing politics and made its way up the chain via Chuck Schumer, through the DNC to Obama himself. And given its provenance, the candidate may have a hard time describing this particular ad as some vaunted “new kind of politics.” In fact, if you’re wondering what the difference is between Tom Matzzie and Barack Obama…

About four months.

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