The McCain campaign is out with the latest in a string of sharply negative advertisements, this time mocking Barack Obama as a self-important celebrity along the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
In a 30-second spot that focuses absolutely zero attention on McCain himself, the Arizona Republican's campaign starts with something of a backhanded compliment for their competitor.
"He's the biggest celebrity in the world," a narrator says, over chants of "Obama, Obama." The screen then shifts to shots of the two aforementioned female pop icons amidst paparazzi. "But, is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling. And, says he'll raise taxes on electricity. Higher taxes, more foreign oil, that's the real Obama."
One of the final images is of Obama's face next to large type stating, "More Foreign Oil."
The spot reflects what observers and reporters have described as a growing superficial negativity emerging from the McCain camp. Certainly, footage of Obama along side Spears and Hilton is designed to make him seem, at the very least, egomaniacal and, at worst, intellectually hollow.
On a conference call following the ad's release, aides to the Arizona Republican dismissed suggestions that it contained a nefarious component, oftentimes sounding like purveyors of Us Weekly rather than top strategists in a presidential campaign.
"What we decided to do is find the top three international celebrities in the world, and I would say from our indications, Britney and Paris came in second and third," said campaign manager Rick Davis. "Will people think of this as negative advertising? Look, it is the most entertaining thing I have seen on TV in a while." He went on: "It is not our campaign that is trying to make him into an international celebrity. It's his campaign... I don't know Paris Hilton and Britney Spears but they are international celebrities, so, you know, apples to apples."
Earlier in the call, chief strategist Steve Schmidt chimed in with his own take on the world of the rich and famous. "It is beyond dispute that [Obama] has become the biggest celebrity in the world. It is a statement of fact. It is backed up by his tour," he said. "The question we are posing to the American people is is he ready to lead yet. And the answer we are offering to the American people is, no he is not."
The Obama campaign, perhaps sensing the lack of substance in the critique, hit back with a bit of humor while accusing McCain abandoning any pretense of civility.
"On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another," read a statement from spokesman Tommy Vietor. "Or, as some might say, 'Oops! He did it again.'"
In the end, the ad may tell voters as much about McCain as it does the Illinois Democrat. It was not too long ago that McCain's campaign released a memo -- authored by Rick Davis -- saying it was "critical" to "run a respectful campaign focused on the issues," no matter which the Democratic nominee emerged. Since then, the presumptive Republican nominee has launched attacks on Obama's patriotism, has blamed his opponent for high gas prices, and has accused him of willfully snubbing the troops.
Update: Obama himself has responded: "You know, I don't pay attention to John McCain's ads, although I do notice he doesn't seem to have anything to say very positive about himself. He seems to only be talking about me... You need to ask John McCain what he's for and not just what he's against."
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