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SUMMARY: A new TV ad from the conservative group Let Freedom Ring renews the charge that Obama is a flip-flopper. We find the group is right about his stance on public financing, partly right about gun control but wrong about Iraq.
It must warrant an entire chapter in the campaign playbooks: Call your opponent a flip-flopper!
It's become a common and sometimes effective tactic in presidential campaigns, most notably by Bush-Cheney '04, which used it against Sen. John Kerry. (One ad used the back-and-forth of Kerry windsurfing to illustrate his policy changes.)
Sen. John McCain's campaign recently tried the flip-flop attack against Sen. Barack Obama and now Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group, has produced a flip-flopping ad that is airing on cable news channels and MTV.
The ad begins with Obama surrounded by newspaper headlines, with the words "FLIP-FLOPPER?" on the screen.
"People are saying that Sen. Obama's recent changes of position have made him a flip-flopper," the announcer says. "He's not! Flip-floppers only hold one position at a time."
As photos show Obama talking from both sides of the screen, the announcer says "Sen. Obama is different: he holds two positions at the same time."
The announcer then lists the issues on which Obama has allegedly flipped: "Both ways on banning handguns . . . Both ways on public campaign financing . . . And now, both ways on withdrawing from Iraq."
The ad concludes, "He's 'Both Ways Barack.' Worse than a flip-flopper!"
We examined some of these charges when McCain made them, but we'll republish them here because the ad will be new to many of our readers. We should note that the group tries a new twist on flip-flopping by alleging Obama is worse because he held the dueling positions simultaneously. But the evidence the group cites doesn't attempt to make the case he held the positions at the same time, so we're addressing the standard charges that he held one position and then took another. Here are our findings:
• Public financing. We found Let Freedom Ring was on target with this one. Obama said he would "aggresively pursue" an agreement with McCain for public financing, but there's no evidence he did so before he opted not to accept public money. We rated this True.
• Handguns. We examined Obama's statements about guns and the District of Columbia law and found he was consistently on the fence. We gave Let Freedom Ring a Half True.
• Iraq. We scoured dozens of statements and debate answers that Obama gave on Iraq and found that his July 3, 2008, remark was not a departure from his previous comments. We gave Let Freedom Ring a False on this one.