John McCain's campaign is continuing to go negative on Barack Obama, launching a new TV spot today that mocks his popularity and questions his Democratic rival's readiness to be president.
The ad opens by calling him "the biggest celebrity in the world" and juxtaposing footage of Obama's speech in Berlin last week before 200,000 people with quick images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
"But is he ready to lead?" the narrator asks. "With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling. And he says he'll raise taxes on electricity. Higher taxes, more foreign oil, that's the real Obama."
Obama's campaign has argued that offshore drilling would provide no immediate relief, and is instead pushing a middle-class tax cut and a longer-range plan for alternative energy. It also says that the reference to a tax on electricity is apparently about a carbon emissions tax, and points out that McCain, as well as Obama, backs a cap-and-trade system on carbon.
The Obama campaign responded to the ad, and managed to sneak in a title of a Britney Spears song.
“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. Or, as some might say, 'Oops! He did it again,' " spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. "Our dependence on foreign oil is one of the greatest challenges we face. In this election the American people have a real choice -- between Obama’s plan to provide tax rebates to American families while creating a renewable energy economy in America that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, and Senator McCain’s plan to continue the same failed energy policies by handing out nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies while investing almost nothing in the new energy sources that represent our future.”
The McCain campaign followed up on the ad with an even harsher memo.
"Only a celebrity of Barack Obama's magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered for the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One. Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand "MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew -- Black Forest Berry Honest Tea" and worry about the price of arugula," campaign manager Rick Davis writes. "Yet, despite all of the fans, paparazzi and media adoration, the American people still have questions: Is Barack Obama prepared to lead? Is being famous the same as being a credible commander in chief?
"On issues big and small, there is a gap between Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric and celebrity and the facts behind them. What he says and what he does are often two very different things, leaving the American people to wonder what he actually believes, or if he believes in anything beyond himself," the memo continues. "....As the world's biggest celebrity, Barack Obama has the entourage and all the trappings of fame. Today, his campaign is more about advancing Barack Obama and less about solving the challenges facing our country."
The McCain campaign said the ad will air on national cable and in the battleground states in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Obama, meanwhile, hit back at McCain somewhat more aggressively during a town hall meeting in Springfield, Mo., this morning.
McCain, Obama claimed, believes the economy is basically on the right track. Families can't afford more of the same when gas prices and foreclosures are skyrocketing and when wages are flat.
Obama also said he welcomed a debate with McCain on taxes, highlighting his proposal for a middle-class tax cut of $1,000 that he said would benefit 95 percent of Americans.
While McCain wants to extend tax cuts enacted under President Bush that are tilted to the wealthy, Obama said his proposals would not raise taxes for any family earning less than $250,000 a year.
UPDATE: Obama responded to McCain's attacks by telling voters in Springfield, Mo.: "Nobody thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face. So what they are going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know. 'He's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name, you know, he doesn't look like all of those other presidents on the dollar bills.' "
Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, replied, "This is a typically superfluous response from Barack Obama. Like most celebrities, he reacts to fair criticism with a mix of fussiness and hysteria. The fact is that in the face of an energy crisis, Barack Obama’s plans to raise taxes on energy and opposition to offshore drilling show that he fundamentally lacks judgment and experience, and is not ready to lead.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.