Widespread Moans As McCain Compares Obama to Spears, Hilton

Though it was only January when John McCain promised to "raise the level of political dialogue in America," that now seems like a very distant memory. Following claims that Barack Obama would "rather lose a war than lose a campaign" and that he'd rather hit the gym than visit wounded soldiers, McCain has now compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in an ad called "Celeb." The clip has immediately stirred up controversy — which, of course, it was supposed to do — causing some liberals to reexamine their respect for the former maverick and some Republicans to voice their disapproval with the path the McCain campaign has chosen.


• Marc Ambinder reports that McCain's longtime friend and adviser John Weaver says McCain has "been a celebrity ever since he was shot down" and that the ad is "childish" and "diminishes" McCain. [Atlantic]

• Rick Klein and friends write that McCain has conceded that "the campaign isn't really about him, after all. And if he keeps this up, winning the presidency will continue to be far more about tearing Obama down than building himself up." [Note/ABC News]

• Chris Cillizza asked Republican consultants their opinions of the ad, and the results were "decidedly mixed." Some thought it was accurate, while others complained that the ads are "talking to the press" or "unprofessional to the core." Ultimately, whether the ad will work depends on voters' trust of McCain. [Fix/WP]

• Chuck Todd and friends think that McCain really does care what the media says about him, in which case, he might want to avoid all news today. But at this point, "the best course for McCain may simply be to put on the blinders and move forward" and "accept this strategy as the winning one." [First Read/MSNBC]

• The New York Times editorial board calls the ad "a new low." They wonder if "McCain’s strategists actually think they can win the White House by whining incessantly about how popular their opponent is." [Board/NYT]

• Joe Klein used to believe "that McCain's true voice was humble and moderate, but now I'm beginning to think his Senate colleagues may be right about his temperament." He's not showing courage now, but "flop sweat," which is "not a quality usually associated with successful leadership." [Swampland/Time]

• Tim Fernholz is another "one of those liberals who used to admire John McCain, and frankly expected him to prosecute a very honorable, issue-based campaign." But these ads not just "unpleasant," but possibly "ineffective." McCain may be "be forced to either once again shake up his campaign and try to be the ebullient maverick of old or consign himself to the fate of another old GOP curmudgeon, Bob Dole." [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Jennifer Rubin contends that "McCain’s ongoing jibes at Obama’s ego and celebrity status shouldn’t be seen in isolation." McCain is highlighting the qualities than make him the "anti-Obama." The "huge dichotomy between an accomplished, humble man and an arrogant, unaccomplished one is, I think, what McCain’s team is driving at." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jonathan Chait thinks the McCain campaign's "seat-of-the-pants, frat-house style" works when "they're the rebels with a positive message." But when "married to an unrelentingly nasty style," it's "just mean and juvenile." He also speculates that, down the road, McCain may make another campaign shake-up and turn to a positive message, after which he could even disavow his old, negative ads. [Plank/New Republic]

• Carrie Budoff Brown notes that the "celeb-Obama" narrative has gained traction, one of the clearest indications being that David Letterman has started making jokes about it. [Politico]

• Laura Meckler and Amy Chozick write that "the danger to Senator McCain's approach, such as with his new ad, is it can be seen as whining about Senator Obama's successes rather than promoting Senator McCain's own" and could even "reinforce [Obama's] front-runner status." [WSJ]

• Josh Marshall wonders whether the McCain campaign's "new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women" is part of a, well, racist strategy. When the campaign is over, everyone will admit "the McCain campaign is now pushing the caricature of Obama as an uppity young black man whose presumptuousness is displayed not only in taking on airs above his station but also in a taste for young white women." [Talking Points Memo]

• Ross Douthat says Josh Marshall sounds like "a paranoid idiot." [Atlantic]

• Ezra Klein claims that because McCain apparently "proved himself committed to a politics of honor and decency sometime between 2001 and 2004," he "can now go around running crypto-racist ads and lying about Obama without any fear of reprisal." Klein proposes a "new blogospheric term: IOKIYJM: It's okay if you're John McCain." [American Prospect] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.