Tales from the Trail

Letterman skewers McCain for canceling ‘Late Show’ visit

WASHINGTON – John McCain should have seen this one coming.
 
The Republican presidential candidate suspended his campaign and dramatically announced he was going to Washington to help hammer out a $700 billion bailout to save the U.S. economy.
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Then he called to cancel with David Letterman. At the last minute. Leaving the wickedly funny late night comic with blank airtime to fill. Probably not the smartest move.
 
“Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, was supposed to be on the program tonight,” Letterman said in an opening volley. “But had to cancel the show because he’s suspending his campaign because the economy is exploding.”
 
“You know who John McCain is,” he added to laughter from his live audience. “He’s the running mate of Sarah Palin, you’re aware of that?”
 
And that was just the start. Letterman wasn’t about to let it go. After heaping praise on McCain as an American hero, it was right back to the cancellation.
 
“When you call up and you call up at the last minute and you cancel a show, ladies and gentlemen, that’s starting to smell,” Letterman said. “This, this is not the John McCain I know, by God. It makes me believe something’s gone haywire with the campaign.”
 
“This just doesn’t smell right because this is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil,” he said.

A presidential candidate doesn’t just suspend the campaign, Letterman insisted.

“You go back to Washington. You handle what you need to handle. Don’t suspend your campaign. Let your campaign go on, shouldered by your vice presidential nominee, that’s what you do. You don’t quit,” Letterman said, pausing to let his audience mull over the idea of McCain letting the little-experienced Alaska governor take over the campaign.
 
“Or is that really a good thing to do?” Letterman asked.
 
The jibes kept coming. McCain’s age — at 72 he’ll be the oldest president to start a first term in office — and Palin’s inexperience.
 
He reacted with mock astonishment when he discovered McCain had not raced back to Washington but was instead being interviewed for the CBS evening newscast with Katie Couric. Letterman watched a live TV feed from the studio as McCain’s face was patted with makeup.
 
“Doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?”
 
“Hey John, I got a question. You need a ride to the airport?”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Molly Riley (McCain at U.S. Capitol on Thursday after returning to Washington for talks on U.S. financial crisis)

McCain crew finds Obama’s big flaw: He’s way too popular

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama can’t seem to please the folks running John McCain’s campaign for the U.S. presidency.
 
They criticized the Democratic candidate for not visiting Iraq, but then he spent nine days abroad, visited both fronts in the U.S. war on terror, didn’t make any fatal rtx855v.jpgmistakes and drew 200,000 people to a speech in Berlin.
 
Now the Republican’s campaign has a new beef against the Illinois senator — he’s way too popular, the most popular celebrity in the world, bigger even than Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.
 
It’s a point McCain makes in a new TV advertisement.
 
“I would say that it’s beyond dispute that he has become the biggest celebrity in the world. It’s a statement of fact. It’s backed up by the reality of his tour around the world,” McCain adviser Steve Schmidt told reporters in a conference call.
 
“They have more fans around the world than Britney Spears does. I make that bold blank statement,” added McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.
 
But McCain traveled around the world and met leaders too, so isn’t he a global celebrity as well? What’s the difference?rtr20ejt.jpg
 
“We see him more as a global leader than a global celebrity,” Davis said. “When people in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, want to talk to somebody who has a leadership and knowledge of positions around the world, they talk to John McCain. I contrast that with Barack Obama’s own trip to Europe. The focus on media, the focus on events and activities, is much more something you would expect from someone releasing a new movie than running for president.”
 
McCain’s crew sees devious motives behind the cultivation of popularity. Davis said it lets Obama “create a fan base around the world that allows him to get a lot of media attention and avoids him having to address the important issues of our time.”
 
But won’t people see the ad as negative campaigning?
 
Barack Obama started it, Davis said. He attacks McCain harshly every day on the campaign trail. Plus he was the first to turn to negative advertising, both in the primary and in the general election.
 
“I’m going to do everything in my power to protect my candidate,” Davis said.
 
“I’m going to let the American public decide what is negative or not negative.”

So what do you think, is it a fair ad or not?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage. 

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Crowds cheer Obama outside No. 10 Downing St. in London on July 26); Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks at campaign evenint in Maine July 21)

McCain, liberal groups roll out new TV ads

WASHINGTON — Republican candidate John McCain touts his independence from President George W. Bush and his plan to fight global warming in a new TV ad.

Two liberal groups, meanwhile, are slamming McCain’s support for the Iraq war in an ad of their own.

McCain’s ad, highlighting an issue important to many independent voters, will run on local TV in 11 battleground states, as well as national cable channels like Fox News and CNN. An aide said the ad buy would be “substantial,” but declined to provide a figure.