“Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. “It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”
Obama spokesman Bill Burton denied the charge. “Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue,” Burton said. “But he does believe they’re using the same old low-road politics to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign.”
For example, the Obama campaign objects to a new McCain TV ad comparing the Democrat’s celebrity to that of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
“You’d think we’d want to have a serious debate,” Obama told an audience in Iowa on Thursday. “But so far, all we’ve been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent: Is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election is about?”
Some observers, including Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic, said the new McCain ad recalls a 2006 Republican spot that featured a white woman saying “call me” to black Democrat Harold Ford Jr. Liberal bloggers such as Josh Marshall said both ads subliminally invoked historical tensions between white women and black men.
“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,” Marshall wrote Thursday.
The race card accusations began flying after Obama hinted to several audiences in Missouri on Wednesday that McCain was making an issue of the fact that Obama is black.
“John McCain and the Republicans, they don’t have any new ideas,” Obama said. “The only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me. They’re going to try to say that I’m a risky guy, they’re going to try to say, ‘Well, you know, he’s got a funny name, and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five-dollar bills,’ and they’re going to send out nasty e-mails.”
The first person to cry foul over this attack was not the McCain camp, but Jake Tapper of ABC.
“Obama seemed to specifically accuse McCain and the GOP of peddling racism and xenophobia,” Tapper marveled. “There’s a lot of racist xenophobic crap out there. But not only has McCain not peddled any of it, he’s condemned it.”