Obama hits 'phony' tactic

The Baltimore Sun

NORFOLK, Va. - Democrat Barack Obama lashed out at John McCain yesterday, accusing the Republican's presidential campaign of creating a false controversy to avoid dealing with serious issues.

On Tuesday, Obama argued that McCain's policies were similar to those of President Bush even though Republicans were trying to repackage themselves as agents of change, an Obama theme. Obama said it was like putting lipstick on a pig, a reference that the McCain camp said was a sexist dig at GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Obama fired back yesterday, saying the McCain campaign will "seize on an innocent remark, take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad because they know it is catnip for the news media." Republicans "would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future."

Within moments of Obama's televised appearance, the McCain campaign shot back in an e-mail from spokesman Brian Rogers: "Barack Obama can't campaign with schoolyard insults and then try to claim outrage at the tone of the campaign. His talk of new politics is as empty as his campaign trail promises, and his record of bucking his party and reaching across the aisle simply doesn't exist."

Obama campaigned yesterday as part of a two-day swing through the battleground state of Virginia. McCain and Palin held their latest rally yesterday in Fairfax, Va., where local officials said the pair attracted 23,000 people. It was their last joint appearance for a while as the Alaska governor went solo on the campaign trail with a rally in her home state in Fairbanks last night.

Obama had hoped to focus on education issues, and the Republicans in their recent campaign stops have stressed energy independence, calls for change in Washington and an end to earmarks. But issues didn't have much of a chance as the talk on cable television, the media and the Internet has focused on the political effect of Palin and cosmetics.

The latest dispute started Tuesday in a campaign appearance in Virginia. Obama compared the policies of McCain to those of Bush.

"John McCain says he is about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is: 'Watch out George Bush, except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics, we're really going to shake things up in Washington.' That's not change. That's just calling the same thing something different.

"You can put lipstick on a pig," Obama said. "It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

For the McCain campaign, the comments were a not-so-subtle reference to Palin's comments at the GOP convention. She asked delegates if they knew the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom. "Lipstick," she said.

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