New McCain ad compares Obama to Britney, Paris

In its latest spot, John McCain's campaign goes after Barack Obama's popularity -- and makes a dubious claim about his plans.

Topics: 2008 Elections, Barack Obama, War Room, John McCain, R-Ariz.,

John McCain’s campaign is apparently not listening to the worries expressed by some of its allies, who are concerned that the negative tack the McCain camp is taking against Barack Obama might backfire. The latest ad out from the McCain camp is intensely negative.

The spot features images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in an implicit comparison with Obama, and the narrator derisively calls him “the biggest celebrity in the world” before asking, “But is he ready to lead?”

The ad says that Obama “says he’ll raise taxes on electricity.” You’d think, given the drubbing it took in Wednesday’s Washington Post over one factually challenged ad, that the McCain camp would want to make sure all the claims it makes in its advertising were on solid ground. But this one isn’t.

In the release announcing the ad, the campaign cited as evidence of the claim a statement Obama made in an interview he gave to the San Antonio Express-News earlier this year. Obama and the reporter had been discussing funding sources for education when the reporter asked, “Have you considered other funding sources, say taxing emerging energy forms, for example, say a penny per kilowatt hour on wind energy?” Obama responded:

Well, that’s clean energy, and we want to drive down the cost of that, not raise it. We need to give them subsidies so they can start developing that. What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas. But I think that the real way to fund education is for local communities to step up and say this is important to us. There are no shortcuts.

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As PolitiFact noted, Obama’s statement really seemed like an aside, not a policy announcement, and Obama’s proposals on his Web site don’t mention new taxes on coal or natural gas, both of which are already taxed.

Update: The Obama campaign has responded to the ad. In a statement, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor had this to say:

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.”

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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