MIAMI — Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry.
At least that's the contention of a top McCain policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Waving his BlackBerry personal digital assistant and citing McCain's work as a senator, he told reporters Tuesday, "You're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create."
A McCain aide later dismissed the remark as "a boneheaded joke by a staffer."
McCain has acknowledged that he doesn't know how to use a computer and can't send e-mail, one of the BlackBerry's prime functions.
Holtz-Eakin's argument is similar to one advanced by Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. Gore once boasted about "taking the initiative to create the Internet" through technological and educational policies. He later was mocked for claiming to have invented the Internet, although he never made such a claim.
Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said McCain's service on and leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee put him at the intersection of a number of economic interests, including the telecommunications industry.
The Arizona senator's handling of regulation and deregulation of that industry in particular left him with the skills to help revive the economy amid a mortgage crisis, an energy crisis and a Wall Street meltdown, the adviser said.
"He can and has the judgment to put people in place with technical expertise, with the history of experience in the areas necessary, that we're going to get reforms," Holtz-Eakin said.
Senior McCain aide Matt McDonald said that the senator "laughed" when he heard the comment about the BlackBerry.
"He would not claim to be the inventor of anything, much less the BlackBerry. This was obviously a boneheaded joke by a staffer," McDonald said.
In a statement, Democratic candidate Barack Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Burton said: "If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week."