08/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The McCain Campaign Jumps the Shark

There is a popular, but misinterpreted phrase, "Jumping the Shark." It doesn't mean you have disastrous ideas. It's that you have run out of ideas -- and are so desperate you'll try anything, no matter how blatantly wrong for you. It's when you send the iconic 1950s leather-jacketed, street-greaser Fonzie out on waterskis.

The John McCain Straight Talk Express has jumped the shark. Already. And the shark won.

In truth, the campaign has been flailing for weeks with Internet "ads." The now-infamous Britney Spears/Paris Hilton Internet "ad" simply completed their Holy Trinity.

First was the Everybody Loves Barack "ad" -- staggering in showing its desperation. Now, clearly its main audience was the press. But there was SO much wrong with this harebrained strategy.

For starters, the press knows it criticizes Obama. He's taken blasts on Rev. Wright, a fist-bump, falsely being elitist and more. The last thing John McCain should want is the press doing its job -- because they might look into his getting the Surge timeline and Iraq border wrong, gorilla rape jokes and his "c*nt" comment more closely. McCain Being McCain won't look as endearing.

But mainly, any remote benefit is far offset by countless viewers watching a three-minute lovefest of adoring crowds cheering Barack Obama, with praise from experts how wonderful he is, all to the song "My Eyes Adored You." Honestly, when you're reduced to complaining that everyone worships your opponent, you are putting your desperation on display.

Second in the Trinity is the pilloried, He Didn't Visit the Troops "ad." Even Republicans (like Sen. Chuck Hagel) have denounced its inaccuracies. But more noteworthy is that even when falsely-claiming Barack Obama didn't visit the troops -- they show footage of him visiting the troops! While making a difficult three-point basket with them. That's not desperate -- that's bizarre. Forget that Sen. Obama visited soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital only weeks before -- when your campaign shows your opponent looking young and athletic, with cheering troops, on his wildly-successful world tour, during which the Iraq Prime Minister endorsed his withdrawal plan -- all to make a knowingly-false point, you just know you don't have anything else to run on.

Let's be honest now -- if John McCain's campaign was doing well, does anyone truly think he'd be running "ads" that even mention his opponent??? Here's how desperate these ads look: you know that TV commercial, "Never let them see you sweat"? This is John McCain perspiring a tsunami, centerstage.

Which finally brings us to the third "ad" of the triumvirate. The "Jump the Shark" moment. The culmination of their emptiness, lack of ideas, and ultimately desperation.

Once again, we have an Internet "ad" that explains how their opponent is the "Biggest Celebrity in the World." (Really, what are they thinking??) And then -- they try to tie Sen. Obama to...Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

To begin with, people resent being considered that stupid. Most voters actually understand that Barack Obama is different from Paris Hilton. No, really!

Further, what the McCain campaign totally overlooks to their detriment is that -- Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination against all odds in a hard-run race, and that tactic against him didn't work. When you're desperate, you miss points like that.

But what most shows them sweating are three comments defending the "ad," by the McCain campaign manager and its chief strategist. Now, remember -- these are from the McCain campaign manager and chief strategist. If anything shows the problems of the McCain Express, that is it.

"What we decided to do is find the top three international celebrities in the world," said campaign manager Rick Davis, "and I would say from our indications, Britney and Paris came in second and third."

When your campaign manager thinks Paris Hilton is the Third Most Famous Celebrity in the World - you're campaigning in a different space/time dimension. Moreover, that very day, a news story in the L.A. Times was headlined, "Britney Spears is Gone in a Flash." Hint: when you don't want to show your 72-year-old candidate out of touch, this isn't how.

But it gets worse. Mr. Davis -- the McCain campaign manager, remember? -- also said, "I don't know Paris Hilton and Britney Spears but they are international celebrities, so, you know, apples to apples."

So, wait, the campaign manager for John McCain doesn't know Paris Hilton and Britney Spears??? Yet he says they are the top international celebrities. And despite not knowing them...felt they should be featured in a political ad for John McCain??!!! As my friend Tiffany often says, "What's up with that?"

But then, leave it to McCain chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, to offer the topper.

"It is beyond dispute that he [Obama] has become the biggest celebrity in the world. It is a statement of fact. It is backed up by his tour."

I am quoting the chief strategist for John McCain. That was not Obama Girl. Or Oprah. Or some fanboy on the "I Heart Barack" blog. That was from the John McCain's chief strategist. Boy, howdy, some strategy.

This is a campaign for President of the United States. If you don't see the lack of ideas, the emptiness, the utter desperation, then your eyes are closed and your brain is on emergency shut-down.

John McCain may believe his only hope is to be relentlessly negative, but that's not the John McCain people think they're supposed to like. People have to know he's not going to continue being George Bush. But he has positioned himself as just a crotchety, out-of-touch old man.

That's what happens when you show your desperation. That's what happens when you kiss Straight Talk goodbye. You hug Britney and Paris.

This isn't just Jumping the Shark. At least Fonzie made it over. This is getting devoured by the shark.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?