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Is McCain Really Putting ‘Country First?’

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza takes a look today at the McCain campaign’s “Celebrity” line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama:

Strategically, [Sen. John] McCain is using one of the oldest tricks in the book: take your opponent’s greatest strength and turn it into a weakness…

There’s little question that in this campaign, Obama’s status as a movement candidate onto whom the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans have been foisted has, to date, been a strength for the Illinois Democrat.

As we said many times during his race against Clinton, the only way in which Obama could beat the New York senator was to turn a vote for him into a vote for a different kind of politics, to transcend the back and forth of the campaign and present himself as a once-in-a-generation change agent.

He accomplished that gargantuan feat with relative ease. But, in doing so, Obama opened himself up to just the sort of attack that McCain has delivered over the past few weeks.

By not only ceding the celebrity card to Obama but accentuating it, McCain is trying to draw a blunt comparison: Obama’s campaign is about one man while his own campaign is about the country as a whole.

McCain has even begun to connect those dots himself in his stump speech. During an appearance last week in Ohio, McCain had this to say: “I will always, always, always put my country first. I have done that from the time I was in prison and was offered a chance to go home before my comrades…. I put my country first then and will continue to put country first,” he said, according to the Associated Press’ Beth Fouhy.

But is McCain’s campaign really about putting the “country first” — and not about the candidate himself? It’s hard to support such a premise when the presumed Republican nominee has based much of his campaign on various deceptions. First, and most obvious, are McCain’s campaign ads. In the last month and a half, McCain frequently put out advertisements that contain false or misleading information, according to FactCheck.org. When we asked him about the ads, McCain was dismissive and appeared to stand by them.

McCain has also enthusiastically promoted the fallacy that lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling will have an immediate impact on gas prices — which many Americans, apparently, have been eager to embrace. A recent CNN poll found half of Americans believe expanded offshore drilling will lead to lower prices at the pump. At the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last week, McCain repeated this message, which has become a central pillar of his stump speech:

“When I

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