Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) reelection campaign released a selectively edited ad on Thursday, linking President Obama to former president Richard Nixon over recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service had inappropriately scrutinized conservative non-profits’ tax status.
The ominous ad begins with standard campaign fare, splicing McConnell’s past speeches with the current scandal. In the last third of the video, however, McConnell has heavily doctored statements by IRS officials and a presidential aide to make them seem unrepentant. One clip shows former IRS commissioner Stephen Miller responding to the question, “Do you believe it is illegal?” with “I don’t believe it is.” Immediately afterward, Nixon, infamous for spying on his opponents in the Watergate scandal, makes a guest appearance, saying, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
However, as the Washington Post’s Glen Kessler points out, Miller then went on to denounce his agency’s actions. Similarly, White House aide Dan Pfeiffer’s statement that the IRS did not break the law but still committed “outrageous and inexcusable” activity that needed to be fixed was boiled down to “The law is irrelevant.” Meanwhile, sinister banners ask: “What are they hiding?”
Finally, Obama’s voice says, “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends” — a quote from a 2010 speech to encourage Latino get out the vote efforts. Obama has repeatedly said he was not aware of the IRS activity, and there is no evidence connecting him to it. In a fiery press conference earlier this month, he blasted the IRS probe as “inexcusable” and “outrageous.”
The ad follows in the same vein of other Republican efforts to tie Obama to the IRS scandal. McConnell’s colleague Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) compared the IRS to the Soviet Union’s KGB, and falsely claimed that there was written proof that Obama was deliberately targeting his political opponents.
Going into his campaign, McConnell stands as the most unpopular senator in the country, with just 36 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving of his work. Even defiantly liberal actress Ashley Judd trailed McConnell in Kentuckians’ esteem by just 4 points before she ultimately decided not to run.