So Barack Obama may be on his first extended vacation of the campaign, but his aides are working hard to counteract John McCain's recent celebrity offensive. A new attack ad features McCain yucking it up with the glitterati -- from Usher to David Letterman -- and assails McCain as a Washington celebrity who sold out to oil companies.
Last week, Obama's aides limited the focus on their new attack ads, simultaneously pushing policy events and emphasizing that their campaign was more positive, honest and policy-oriented than McCain's "low road" efforts. Yet today's attack is center stage. Campaign Manager David Plouffe says the ad shows, "McCain has completely transformed himself to please special interests and the far-right wing of his party." The campaign emailed supporters with a call to forward a link to "help make sure people see the ad pushing back on McCain's low-road attacks."
This kind of jujitsu, of course, is standard political fare. Karl Rove perfected the dark art of projecting a candidate's own weakness onto an opponent. Thus President George W. Bush's weak service record seemed like a minor issue compared to the "questions" raised about his opponents' war records -- from McCain in 2000 to Sen. John Kerry in 2004. (See Wayne Slater, who wrote a book about Rove.) McCain's camp is aiming to brush aside his long love affair with the spotlight -- including a cameo in the sex-crazed movie, Wedding Crashers, and more than 30 late night comedy show appearances -- by whining that it is actually Obama who has celebrity issues. Rather than defend this guilty charge, Team Obama is striking back by calling out McCain's chronic celebrity tendencies and thirst for Hollywood attention. Clearly, there's plenty of material to choose from, like this article reporting how McCain was the "original political celebrity."
Finally, when it comes to McCain's infamous Paris Hilton ad, in a recent MSNBC debate with Ron Christie, I explained why it was such a pathetic flop:
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