Obama “the decider” v. Obama the Unready — contrasting political ads

This is an exercise in messaging. Presented here are two ads: one from the President’s campaign organization the other from the RNC.

In Mr. Obama’s ad, we get theme he promised he’d never use: the death of Osama bin Laden (“You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” he said). That was then, this is now and there’s an election campaign underway so bring on the trophies:

In the second, RNC, ad, we have a different theme — one featuring then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, who believed then-Sen. Obama just wasn’t ready for the Oval Office:

The Obama ad features Bill Clinton, who references George Bush (funny how he keeps reappearing, isn’t it?). The RNC ad has ol’ Joe in fine form, and is very much focused on the President’s handling of the economy.

They are both good ads. They make solid hits and have great visuals. And each presents what it thinks is its strongest case: Obama “the decider” v. Obama the Unready.

Drop your partisan blinders for a moment and tell me: which one does a better job at delivering its message?

  • Nathan Miller

    First…Obama’s quote about trophies was specifically about releasing death photos of OBL. Obama has every right to shine a light on this victory and would be a fool not to.

    Have to give this one to the Democrats. Although you think it is funny Bush keeps coming, you have to realize he is the Democrats best defense on so many issues. Bush is still toxic. His spending and policies did lasting damage to the GOP.

    The RNC ad is good, but it won’t fire up the base like Obama’s ad.

  • Jim Wilson

    The Republicans don’t need to be fired up they already are.

  • D.J. Spiker

    Why is Bill Clinton narrating this ad!??! Does OFA/DNC think everyone is just going to forget that Clinton had the opportunity to kill Bin Laden and CHICKENED OUT? The worst decider in chief passed the buck and look what happened.

    Irony thou art a heartless b****

  • Nathan Miller


    Yes, the DNC does think they will forget…and frankly for those that this ad is aimed at, they are correct in thinking that. Clinton is still held in high regard in Democratic circles.


    I haven’t seen much fire behind Romney. I can count on one hand the number of yard signs/bumber stickers I have seen supporting him in Hampton Roads. If you think the current state of the party is “fired up” you are going to have a rude wake up call on November 7th.

  • D.J. Spiker

    Beyond that, Obama’s ad far better

  • SWilliams

    Regarding the second video, everyone knows that Biden can say anything at any time. That, imho, is not some kind of take down. The piece just feels dated. David Gregory stating that “people in his own party question his leadership” without naming said “people” or noting what “questions” these unnamed people have is weak sauce. Granted some people will eat this up, but its very weak nontheless. For one, Gregory is part of the ‘lamestream’ meedeeuh is he not? Now we’re supposed to listen to lamestreamers? Secondly, the entire “not ready” line is without punch. You have John McCain at the precipice of the Bush Depression stating that “the economy is fundamentally sound”. You have McCain and Mittens stating that they would NOT go into Pakistan to get OBL if we had good intel. Mittens was an advocate for letting Detroit fail. McCain said some terribly irresponsible things regarding the Russia/Georgia conflict that everyone cringed at before dismissing as folly. Every GOPT candidate wants to bomb Iran yesterday. Newt was for/against/for supporting the Libyan rebels. McCain simply picking Palin is indicative of “not ready”. And there’s Palin herself. And if you look at Mitts flip flopping record on almost every issue, its obvious that he is simply a shape shifter, blown by the winds of political expediency. Being called “not ready” by the party that defended Bush with religious vigor, after he drove the country into every tree along the road… for 8 solid years, is a tough argument to make. If one is not simply trying to preach to the choir.

  • SWilliams

    DJ – the claim that “Clinton had the opportunity to kill Bin Laden and CHICKENED OUT”, while gospel at WND and CNS, had been debunked by the 911 Commission. What do you base your claim on?

  • MD Russ

    Here is a different take on Obama’s “gutsy call.” More often than not, the best thing the POTUS can do is give the Go order and then stand back out of the way while the COCOM CINC does his job. Contrast that with Jimmy Carter’s micromanagement of Desert One and with Bill Clinton denying the request from the CENTCOM CINC for an Abrams-Bradley company team as a Quick Reaction Force in Somalia just before the Blackhawk Down incident. It would appear that Obama was fully prepared to pull the plug on the OBL mission the moment that the risk factors shifted.


  • Nathan Miller


    That is exactly how operations of this nature are supposed to work. I don’t think there are many who actually believe Obama coordinating the operation. Of course Adm. McRaven was in control. And you better believe had Obama told him to abort, McRaven would have shut the operation down.

    Any time a President makes the call to violate a country’s sovereign borders, it is absolutely a gutsy call. Thankfully, for our soldiers, the end result was a near flawless operation that is a testament to all of the young men and women who wear the uniform of this great country.

  • Jim Wilson

    Natan the people i see are fired up. A man told me yesterday he had people asking for 4×8 signs already.Take a look at the money the Republican leaning PACs are raising.They are raising 3 times more than the Democrat leaning PACs.

  • Nathan Miller

    Don’t get me wrong Jim, I want Romney to win. He has a ton of work to do though and I think there is a lot of apathy within the party. I believe there are many who think this will be a cakewalk, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

    It is going to be a very tough road to victory.

  • Jim Wilson

    Oh i agree Nathan it will be a tough road and it will be a very close race.

  • The idea that any president would not have authorized the mission to take out bin Laden is ludicrous and destroys the credibility of the first ad. Romney’s statements at the time are worthless when taken out of context. The first ad is a bridge too far and there should be blowback against the President for putting out such nonsense and expecting thinking Americans to buy it.

  • SWilliams

    Sorry Brian S:

    During the 2008 campaign, when BHO stated during a debate with McCain that the US would go into Pakistan and take out OBL if Pakistan was unwilling to do so (a point that he made repeatedly), it was derided time and again by McCain. It was of course picked up by the Right media as a means of derision as well. Even Romney got on board as well.

    McCain: “He said he would launch military strikes into Pakistan. You DONT DO THAT.”

    These BHO/JM debates of course happened after the closing of Alec Station, the CIA group tasked with hunting OBL. It was closed in 2006 during the Bush admin. Which occurred after Bush stated numerous times that he was “not concerned” about OBL and that OBL was “not a priority”.

    To recap, when BHO proposed getting the job done, the GOP ridiculed him. Now that it’s worked, they don’t think it’s fair for him to ever talk about it again.

  • From my perspective, when McCain said “you DON’T DO THAT” what I hope he meant was you don’t say that out loud on international TV.

    If it means getting bin Laden, you do whatever it takes and we can say sorry later. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, especially when it comes to international politics.

    I don’t care if Obama talks about it. Bin Laden was killed on his watch, and he deserves the credit for it. But to claim that Romney wouldn’t have done the exact same thing in that situation is ridiculous. Any President would have. Even Jimmy Carter.

  • Sara

    Obama The Decider? Heh heh.

    Yeah, deciding on NCAA bracket winners. Deciding where to go on yet another vacation.

    I think it’s a big deal that we killed Osama, but the bigger deal is that Obama killed the economy. I don’t think his trophy is going to matter as much as he thinks it is.

  • Tim J

    Obama killed Osama and his State Department this week declared that “The war on terror is over.”

    “Now that we have killed most of al Qaida,” the (State Department) source said, “now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.”

    The key word: “legitimate Islamism”. Are the “Muslim Brotherhood” now the “legitimate Islamists” and how much “terror” and violence against women do we accept today before we warn them that they may lose that distinction?

  • As long as Zawahiri is still alive, Al Qaida is not dead.

  • I don’t know. Neither one did much for me but if I had to choose I’d the GOP ad is more on message. Taking out OBL was of course good, and I suppose Clinton makes an interesting point but the consequences of the strike going bad…but as they say, “What have you done for me lately?”

  • It took a while in this thread, but Craig hits at a crucial difference between the ads.

    The Obama spot is, in some ways, as response to the “3 AM phone call” ad from Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

    The RNC ad has old roots, too. It’s James Carville’s “it;s the economy, stupid” idea all over again.

    But it also shows how circular the political debate has been in the last 20 years. Only now, the parties have swapped narratives.

  • That’s what struck me the most about these two ads too, Norm – the Democrats are the national security party and the Republicans are running on the economy?

    We get into the trenches so much, arguing micro-issues, fighting tooth-n-nail over 1 billion in cuts or some other matter that will make little difference, one does have to wonder, is there really a difference between these guys?

    • If the parties have swapped (or are trying to swap) narratives on National Defense and Economy, I would not envy the Democrats’ position. I don’t know any people who consider issues on national defense a priority in considering an elected official.

      Yay. We got OBL, and due kudos to the Obama Admin and all involved in that effort; but I don’t think people this time around are going to think about “who did the president kill?” when casting their ballot. And now that he has announced the “War on Terror” over, he can’t use the old “don’t change horses in midstream” line either.

      As long as the unemployment rate is above 8% the Republicans should hammer the president for his statement that the unemployment rate would never go above 8% with his policies. When he retorts “We didn’t know how bad it really was,” we must point out his inability to properly assess a situation.

  • “Its the wedge issues stupid”. And the dems are fighting fire with fire. We both get burned and the dems are pyromaniacs. I have to wonder just how well those focus groups steer the decisions on what psychology works best among conservative voters.

  • Dope snorting Barack Obama was present when the Seals fragged Bin Laden. His carreer is all about survival when action is warranted and coming out on top regardless. He is never put in a position of culpability for a reason.. he is the front man of the well funded behind the scenes far left. My question is who do they plan to replace him with in 2016?

    As for the Romney and Clinton comments, I would imagine the difference would have been that Romney or Paul would have smoked Bin Laden around the same time Clinton stopped short and the symbolic twin towers would be standing today.

  • Tim J

    If Obama wins, are we going to have enough of a Constitution “left” in 2016 where they even need to “replace” him?

  • Sara

    Life would not be the same here on BD without the always entertaining and highly descriptive comments of Turbo Cohen. You ought to pay him.

  • SWilliams

    Well, I just now watched the Obama video. Its pretty good. But they have a lot to learn from the GOPT. There is ….

    – no obvious misuse of threat level color codes before every important announcement and election

    – no flight suit appearance on an aircraft carrier that was forced to wait an extra day off the coast

    – no 50 foot “mishun akomplished” banner to be found

    – no burning Twin Tower pictures at a political convention ala the 2008 GOP convention

    – no walk thru a Baghdad market with 2 blackhawks overhead, 4 other choppers overhead, escorted by 100 armed soldiers, thru a market that was previsiously scanned for threats, just to claim “Iraq is Great!”

    – no bogus propaganda catapulting

    – no outing of CIA officers as pushback for people who question your propaganda

    The Dems are just babes in the woods when you look at how the GOPT operates

  • There was no misuse of the threat level codes before an election. And considering Democrats always said the codes were worthless, I don’t see the point if that had happened, anyway. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

    I don’t care what anybody says – the fact that our President was a fighter pilot was always pretty cool in my book. And we did accomplish the mission. Saddam’s regime was toppled in record time. The clean up took years, but the Navy’s immediate mission was accomplished.

    If we can’t talk about 9/11 at all and remind folks that it happened because that’s political, I don’t see how you can criticize us for criticizing Obama for using bin Laden.

    Nobody walked through Iraq and said everything was fine.

    I have no idea what a propaganda catapult is, but it sounds like a good time.

    No CIA officers were outed by the Administration in some kind of payback move. Plame was outed by accident by a State Department official who had a history of not keeping his mouth shut.

    I can’t believe we’re still arguing about this stuff a decade later.

  • MD Russ


    I have suspected for some time now that both Turbo and Mike Barrett are creations of JR’s imagination to drive comments on the blog.

    Just kidding, Jim. Don’t get your knickers all bunched up.

  • SWilliams

    No one argues that they were completely worthless. They were valuable for political reasons.

    Former Secretary Of Homeland Security Tom Ridge reveals that he was under intense political pressure to raise the national security threat level on the eve of the 2004 presidential election. “And as the minutes passed at our videoconference we concluded that others in the administration were operating with the same threat information and didn’t know any more than we did, and that the idea was still a bad one. It also seemed possible to me and to others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country’s safety. ”

    On November 10, just 8 days after Bush had secured victory for his second term, DHS downgraded the “orange” alert back to “yellow,”. The threat had apparently passed.

    Perfect timing that.

    “Pretty Cool” is not something i would prescribe to a flight-suit photo op on a photo-op-waiting carrier under the “accomplished” banner. Instead, the terms “terribly naive”, “grandstanding”, and “wishful thinking” come to mind.

    Regarding 9/11, Obama, & OBL… you have it exactly backwards. The GOP cant scream 911911911 for ten solid years as a political tool, show the burning towers at the GOP convention during the McCain nomination, and then whine when the BHO video mentions the OBL kill.

    McCain walked thru the market with his personal army, flak jacket, and choppers overhead and proclaimed “the surge worked”. You are really splitting hairs. Clinton would be proud.

    I think you know what catapulting the propaganda is. It was a catch phrase from the Decider. A useful tool when you “bring a new product to market” (thank you Andy Card).

    In the DOJ investigation, referred by the CIA, Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was convicted of obstructing justice and perjury in the leak case. Lucky for Cheney, Libby held… knowing he’d get his get out jail card sooner or later.

  • The idea that terrorists might try and impact a presidential election isn’t implausible. And raising it may have been a bad idea. But are you honestly saying that Bush won in 2004 because he raised the terror alert level?

    It’s only “grandstanding” because your guy isn’t a fighter pilot. If Obama had done it, it would be the coolest thing since Miles Davis.

    We aren’t screaming 9/11 as a political tool. It was Bush’s defining moment as President. Should we have simply ignored it instead?

    McCain is McCain. I’m not defending him anymore. Whatever he did was likely stupid.

    Catapulting the propaganda must be one of those things you guys picked up on that the rest of us ignored.

    Libby was convicted of obstructing justice and perjury. He was not convicted of leaking Plame’s name. It wasn’t him. As is often the case, the attempted cover up, which was unnecessary since Cheney did nothing wrong, was worse than the thing being investigated. And Libby didn’t get a “get out of jail free card.” His sentence was commuted. He didn’t get a pardon. He’s still a convicted felon. He’s been disbarred. Considering the whole investigation itself was based on nonsense, he paid more than he should have.

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