This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," September 15, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: McCain versus Obama, 50 days to go, folks.
The attack ads are getting more and more vicious, as we've seen and they're not always coming from the candidates themselves exactly. Hitting the airwaves now, an independent group attacks McCain's POW record.
Take a look at part of this ad:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE POW: The prisoner of war experience is not a good prerequisite for president of the United States. He was well known as a very volatile guy and he would blow up and go off like a roman candle. John McCain is not somebody that I would like to see with his finger near the red button.
MACCALLUM: all right. Well, McCain's camp is now accusing Obama's camp of encouraging this swift-boat-style of attack.
Could these types of ad backfire, is the big question out there, even if the candidates aren't officially approving the message as you usually hear at the end of those ads.
Here now on the left, we have the former senior campaign adviser to Hillary Clinton and now an Obama supporter, Maria Cardona. And on the right, FOX News contributor and syndicated radio host, Monica Crowley.
Maria, let me start with you. What do you think of that ad?
MARIA CARDONA, FORMER CLINTON SENIOR CAMPAIGN ADVISER AND BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTER: I think it's horrible. And frankly, it is the kind of ad Sen. Obama has spoken out against. Unfortunately, he has no control over these groups. They're completely independent. It's illegal even for them to even talk directly or indirectly so he has no control over this. But I think what we should talk about are the ads that the actual campaign has put themselves and McCain's ads have so far been lies —
MACCALLUM: All right. We'll get to that in just a second.
MACCALLUM: Let's deal with the first ad first. Let's talk about this, Monica, because, you know, first of all, I just wonder, you know, who wouldn't be sort of volatile in a prisoner of war situation. I mean, it is a little bit difficult to judge someone's behavior when you are imprisoned in a foreign country for five years.
MONICA CROWLEY, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: I mean, look, the 527 groups that are producing these kinds of ads — to some extent, Maria is right, that the candidates themselves don't have control over those kinds of messages being put out here. But Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that he would like to initiate a new kind of politics and bring a new style of campaigning and governing to Washington, hope and change and all of that. Even though he wasn't directly responsible for this ad, why not condemn it, which would be perfectly consistent with the campaign he said he is trying to run.
MACCALLUM: So why not condemn it, Maria? Should he come out and say, you know, "Take it down. I don't want to see it ever again. And if you support me, you'll say, 'take this down'?
CARDONA: Well, you know what? He has said from the very beginning that he doesn't agree with any of the ads that any independent organizations would run. He has said that, you know, many times. But again, he can only say it so many times. He has no control over what they do. But, again, let's talk about the ads that the actual campaign has so approved.
McCain's ads thus far have been lies, smears, untruths, and this is coming from organizations that are independent is coming. It's coming from the press — FactCheck.org — and they continue to run these ads and these are ads that McCain actually approved. So if you have somebody who supposedly has been on the straight talk express, you now have him jumping on the fast track to the gutter. So that's a big difference.
MACCALLUM: Yes. You make a good point, Maria. And in fact, Karl Rove said over the weekend that he thought that there was, you know, some pushing of the envelope a little bit too far really on both sides of this equation. I'm wondering — you know, I think that the American people are pretty smart and I think that everybody is used to seeing this kind of ads. I get this stuff in my mail at home with the local action. I just threw them in the garbage. You know, you can't believe what you see sort of blasted across this kind of ads. So I wonder if it is not just a big waste of time to sort of put these things out.
CROWLEY: Well, you know what? Negative ads work, and that's why both campaigns now are using negative messaging to get even their positive messages to be heard. You've got to get the attention of the electorate. I mean, when you think about this, the Obama campaign again tried to say that they were going to run a different kind of campaign and bring on a different kind of politics when, in fact, their campaign was the first to run a negative ad.
MACCALLUM: Should he come out and say, "You know what? That one really wasn't really that truthful," which many people have said?
CROWLEY: Well, a lot of people have criticized that ad. But then let's go back and say, well, the first negative shot across the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was Obama he put out his own ad saying John McCain wanted 100 years in Iraq, which was a complete mischaracterization of John McCain's position there. So let's be evenhanded and say when either campaign goes out with an ad that — negative is fair game. Inaccurate is not.
MACCALLUM: I think — thanks very much to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). A lot of people are tuning some of these out right now. And I think when it comes to the debates, they're going to really watch both of these candidates really closely.
MACCALLUM: That's certainly the next big bar for us to pass. Thank you very much, Maria Cardona and Monica Crowley.
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