McCain staffers attempt to derail McCain's campaign

Jake Turcotte

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In football, all it takes is one offsides penalty and the entire offensive plan can fall apart. It's the same thing in politics. Everyone can be 'on message,' but one little error can derail the campaign for a day, a week, or for its entirety.

Just think back to two weeks ago, when the McCain campaign got tired of answering the "how thoroughly was Sarah Palin vetted" question, or just last week when the Obama campaign got disgusted with the "pigs on a lipstick" questions.

There are plenty of land mines out there.

Since hockey is all the rage these days with the addition of the GOP's favorite hockey Mom as the vice presidential nominee, the McCain staff today performed a hat trick (warning: mixed metaphors ahead).

First, one McCain staffer pulls an Al Gore (claiming to invent something really big) and second, another McCain staffer pulls a Joe Biden (claiming someone isn't the best qualified) – twice.

Strike one

How about a claim that John McCain invented the BlackBerry?

McCain's economic adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, held a conference call this morning apparently forgetting that if you make a grandiose invention claim you just might be the subject of ridicule.

No matter. The adviser blazed ahead and claimed John McCain was partly responsible for inventing the popular PDA.

Holding up his BlackBerry, campaign adviser Holtz-Eakin announced, "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years – comes right through the Commerce Committee – so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did."

No he didn't, said Matt McDonald, another campaign aide. How to defuse the "controversy?" Throw the economic adviser to the wolves.

"He [McCain] would not claim to be the inventor or anything, much less the BlackBerry," McDonald said. "This was obviously a boneheaded joke by a staffer."

So funny was the joke, according to McDonald, McCain himself was laughing about it. Mmm-hmmmm.

Strike two

In the meantime, another McCain strategist – the co-chair of the McCain presidential campaign Carly Fiorina – also got in the swing of things.

Fiorina was appearing on a St. Louis radio station when the host asked, "Do you think she [Palin] has the experience to run a major company, like Hewlett Packard?"

"No, I don't," responded Fiorina. "But you know what? That's not what she's running for."

Strike three

Then in a weird attempt to clarify what she meant, Fiorina in a separate interview said that John McCain wasn't qualified to run a corporation either.

Then she clarified the clarification.

"I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation," she said. "I don't think Joe Biden could. But it is not the same as being the president or vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company, so of course, to run a business, you have to have a lifetime of experience in business, but that's not what Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama or Joe Biden are doing."


Did the Obama campaign respond? The mouthpieces were not asleep at the wheel.

On the BlackBerry issue, Obama spokesman Bill Burton offered, "If John McCain hadn't said that the fundamentals of our economy are strong on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the Blackberry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week."

On Fiorina's statement, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said, "If John McCain's top economic advisor doesn't think he can run a corporation, how on earth can he run the largest economy in the world in the midst of a financial crisis?"

Outside of that, it was a great day for the McCain campaign...

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