To win our hypothetical 2012 version of the 1864 match-up, the McClellan team has attempted to cast the election as a referendum on Lincoln, not a choice between the two. The resulting relentless attack campaign against Lincoln invites the public to oust Lincoln without considering what kind of president would be elected as a result. Where the FlackCheck.org McClellan campaign deploys deception and distraction to turn Lincoln’s strengths into liabilities, the Lincoln response demonstrates that it is possible to win by campaigning factually, fairly, and honorably. In ads scripted by Bob Shrum, who created the ads for the Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, and Mark McKinnon, who did the same for the reelection run of incumbent Republican George W. Bush, the Lincoln campaign quotes McClellan’s own in-context words against him, catalogues his failures as a leader in careful detail and makes the case that Lincoln does indeed deserve four more years. We hope that these Lincoln ads will remind students that the country has survived difficult times in the past and show that winning honorably is the better way. If those who seek our votes mislead, the best protection for the country is a citizenry armed with the tools to detect patterns of deception, sort significant issues from silly distractions, and apply sound criteria to determine which candidate is better qualified to lead.
FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. We provide resources to help students recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.
FlackCheck.org is funded by an endowment provided by the Annenberg Foundation to support the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics and by a grant from the Omidyar Network.