Ever since the infamous 1804 gun duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, Americans have generally frowned upon shootouts involving their vice president. President Obama's campaign might want to take note.
The president' latest radio ad blasts a hearty shot at Mitt Romney, suggesting the presumptive Republican presidential nominee isn't the friend of coal country that he has made himself out to be.
To make the case, the ad airs a Romney soundbite from outside a coal-fired power plant back in 2003 when he was Massachusetts governor. “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people,” Romney said at the time. Obama's ad also brags that coal jobs are up 10 percent in Ohio on his watch. “So when it comes to coal, who’s been honest and who’s playing politics?”
It's a classic attack ad suggesting Romney is guilty of hypocrisy by embracing coal power this time around. There's just one problem.
The president's clean shot at Romney is obstructed by none other than Vice President Joe Biden, Obama's running mate who has staked out the same position as the 2003 version of Romney. “Hundreds of thousands of people die and their lives are shortened because of coal plants,” Biden declared in a 2008 interview with Bill Maher.
To add further complication, the Obama administration has repeatedly cited health and mortality concerns in aggressively pursuing its own environmental regulations reigning in coal-fired power.
For violating the "Burr rule," inflicting collateral damage on Biden's position and misleading voters through the art of omission, the Obama campaign secures this week's Whopper of the Week, a weekly designation designed to call attention to misleading, inaccurate or downright false political claims.
Listen to the radio ad:
The Obama campaign did not return calls or an email seeking comment Thursday.
It should be noted the Guardian isn't alone in crying foul. Some of the president's key constituencies in the environmental movement are also chastising Obama for feigning an embrace of coal. They're also concerned that the ad pans a Romney position in 2003 that they say was, in fact, supported by science.
The Clean Air Task Force, a non-partisan clean air advocacy group, said in a recent report “that over 13,000 deaths each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. power plants."
The coal industry disputes such statistics, but there's no disputing that the Obama administration -- in particular Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson -- has cited health concerns about coal pollution in making the case for sweeping regulations.
In fact, both industry and environmentalists agree those regulations will make it extremely difficult for new coal-fired plants to ever be built, unless stalled carbon capture technology advances
And that's exactly why even some of the president's biggest supporters are objecting to the latest radio ad in media outlets like Mother Jones and The Huffington Post.
"An ad suggesting that President Obama is more coal-loving than Romney isn't just cynical, it's misleading," the liberal grass-roots organization CREDO declared as it started a petition asking Obama to pull the ad. "President Obama should be laying out a better way forward. Not perpetuating the myth that burning coal has a viable place on a livable planet."
Kate Sheppard, a reporter for Mother Jones, added in a blog post: "Obama's ad is really off-base. For one, there's still no 'clean coal' technology that's ready to be deployed for new plants."
The whole debate is a good reminder that Obama and Romney are both guilty of trying to have it both ways as they court support in critical coal states like Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. But the president's radio ad reaches a rhetorical low worthy of this week's Whopper.