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Obama Blasts McCain as “Washington’s Biggest Celebrity”

Sen. Barack Obama is on his first extended vacation of the campaign, but his aides are working hard to counteract Sen. 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. An Obama aide tells TWI the ad is running on national cable channels.

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." (The email also asked for "a donation of $5 or more" to get the ad on the air.")

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.

PRODUCTION NOTES: A deep-voiced announcer and big-band jazz score make the ad feel like a movie preview, reinforcing the celebrity theme. Paparazzi flashbulbs blanket McCain’s cameos, a riff on the flashes in recent attack ads against Obama. Boisterous shots of McCain lapping up the Hollywood spotlight fade into images of the Arizona senator clinging to Bush, then marching with a retinue of well-dressed aides, whom the ad presents as lobbyists running a "low-road campaign." It ends on rapid-fire shots of McCain with Jay Leno. The lingers on and closes with an image of McCain and Bush, while the voice-over indicts McCain as a "Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games." The images offer a compelling reminder that McCain is chummy with celebs and versed in Beltway theater. But as a reactive message, it may be overshadowed by the original punch of McCain’s first celebrity ads.

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