Barack Obama promised to practice a different kind of politics, a politics that would stick to the issues. Yet his campaign has produced an ad that shows an old photo of McCain, wearing an out-of-style suit and large glasses, in an effort to convey the message that McCain is an old, out-of-touch man, someone who doesn’t even know how to use the Internet or even send an e-mail message. That’s what is known as an ad hominem attack.
McCain likes to tout himself as a straight talker whose honesty builds trust. Yet a campaign ad by McCain links Obama to the down-and-dirty politics of the city of Chicago—a case of asserting guilt based on association. Another McCain ad, seizing on Obama’s support for teaching kindergarteners about how to protect themselves from sexual predators, declares that Obama wants to teach sex education to children before they can read. That’s a case of outright misrepresentation.