POLITICS
10/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Admits He's "Divorced" From Reality: Obama Camp Lets Rip

The Obama campaign is jumping all over a line from John McCain, in which the Arizona Republican suggested that time in Washington had made it easier from him to be out of touch with everyday concerns.

"I think John McCain is right about John McCain," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a fellow Chicagoan known for his brass-knuckled politics. "He has been there so long that is why he has voted 90 percent of the time with George Bush and that why his staff is bogged down by lobbyists that represent special interests."

McCain's alleged gaffe came Thursday night at Columbia University during a service forum featuring both candidates.

"It's easy for me to go to Washington," said the Senator, "and frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

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McCain was actually lauding the accomplishments of governors and mayors like his running mate, Sarah Palin. Indeed, later in the forum, Obama made a similar statement of his own, though hardly the first person admission that Washington had made him "divorced" from reality.

"Well listen," said the Senator, "we had an awful lot of small-town mayors at the Democratic Convention, I assure you. I meet them all the time. And I have -- the mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because that's where the rubber hits the road. We yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away."

And while GOP officials jumped at that remark, they didn't have the material (or the zest) that Democrats used in criticizing McCain.

In addition to hitting the Republican nominee for his comments, Emanuel and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin accused the Republican nominee of waging a dirty campaign, perpetuating the policies of George W. Bush. They even brought up, as Obama did in a campaign ad released Friday morning, McCain's admission that he is illiterate when it comes to the Internet.

"He has admitted he doesn't know how to use a computer or the Internet," said Emanuel. "There is a whole economic revolution going on and it fundamentally changed the economy and people's lives and he is removed from it."

But the real red meat for the Obama surrogates was McCain's comment from the service forum. An aide, in private, called it a major gaffe that could be used to badger the Arizonan, along the lines of his admission that he doesn't know how many houses he owns. Durbin, too, portrayed it as a big misstep, one that fits into a preexisting narrative.

"I have been with John McCain in Washington, and I think what he said reflects the reality of many people," Durbin said. "But even worse is the situation that his economic policies that he wants to continue with George Bush have failed. If he would, you know, be in the real world of American families in New York, Illinois or Florida, he would understand that."