The McCain "celeb" ad using the images of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears to portray presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elite and tax hiker was the peg Thursday morning for a face off on NBC's "Today" show between Obama campaign strategist Robert Gibbs and McCain campaign spokesman Nicolle Wallace.
The spot, out Wednesday, mocks Obama's popularity: "He's the biggest celebrity in the world" and then shows pictures of the two celebs who have gotten into various jams.
That McCain spot followed the "Berlin" video produced by the Republican National Committee--they hired a crew to tape at the Berlin speech--featuring Germans gushing over Obama in ways calculated to turn off U.S. voters.
Matt Lauer asked Wallace to defend the the "celeb" spot because Hilton and Spears are "the punchline of jokes" and "that's demeaning."
Replied Wallace, "I don't think we are making a joke of Sen. Obama and neither were the 200,000 Germans who were there to celebrate his celebrity.
"We are going to focus over the next 90 some odd days talking about the issues where I think we are very much in line with what the American people want and expect from our next president.
"But no one can forget or overlook or obscure the fact that Barack Obama is the celebrity in this contest and Sen. McCain, an American hero, is the underdog We are comfortable with that position, we embrace that position."
At his turn Gibbs said, "I think of what you see is people that are excited about the possibility of change in this country.
"You know John McCain is an honorable man, Matt, who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign as independent observers have said is false and baseless. The McCain campaign has very clearly decided that the only way to win this election is to become very personal and very negative."
Obama response ad
"Celeb" from McCain campaign
Berlin from the RNC
Obama campaign response to the McCain campaign "Celeb" spot by Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor
"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.' 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."
From the McCain campaign....
To: Interested Parties
From: Rick Davis, McCain Campaign Manager
Date: July 30, 2008
Re: Barack Obama's Celebrity
Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the world, comparable to Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. As he told Congressional Democrats yesterday, he has become the "symbol" for the world's aspirations for America and that we are now at "the moment ... that the world is waiting for." 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.
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?
Like most worldwide celebrities, this status has fueled a certain arrogance. As The Washington Post reported this morning, Barack Obama has gone from his party's presumptive nominee to "its presumptuous nominee." His advisers are constantly reminded that their candidate is not actually the President of the United States, despite the "presidential" seal.
On his plane, his chair reads "President." Barack Obama's presumptuous arrogance is staggering considering that as a United States Senator he has almost no record of accomplishment. As Richard Cohen wrote yesterday in The Washington Post: "'Just tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that you admire,' I asked a prominent Democrat. He paused and then said that he admired Obama's speech to the Democratic convention in 2004. I agreed. It was a hell of a speech, but it was just a speech.
On the other hand, I continued, I could cite four or five actions -- not speeches -- that John McCain has taken that elicit my admiration, even my awe."
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.
He says he will change Washington, but in the U.S. Senate, he has requested nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel spending. He says he will only raise taxes on the rich, but he voted to raise the taxes of those making just $32,000 per year.
He says he wants energy independence, but he opposes new drilling at home; opposes nuclear power; and opposes encouraging the invention of an advanced, affordable electric car.
On Iraq, he says he wants peace, but even today opposes the surge strategy that has succeeded and will succeed in Afghanistan.
Our nation doesn't need another politician in Washington who puts his self-interest and political expediency ahead of problem-solving.
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.