- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2008

CONCORD, N.H. | After a week of being pummeled as a sexist who is trying to trash the opposition, a newly aggressive Sen. Barack Obama on Friday went after Sen. John McCain as out of touch, accusing him of telling outright lies.

Mr. Obama assured worried Democrats he would not let the hits against him stand, quoting Abraham Lincoln: “If you don’t stop lying about me I’m going to have to start telling the truth about you.”

At a rally here with 1,500 people, Mr. Obama railed on Republicans as avoiding talking about real-life problems facing Americans.

“They’ve been talking about lipstick, they’ve been talking about pigs, they’ve been talking about Britney, they’ve been talking about Paris,” he said, rattling off a series of McCain attack ad subjects.

“They will spend any amount of money and use any tactic out there in order to avoid talking about how we’re going to move America into the future,” he said, adding it has worked before but his supporters must fight the “standard operating procedure” and reject “the same old politics.”

Earlier in Dover, N.H., he took a similar tone.

“This election is too important, it’s too serious to be playing silly games,” he said, a few hours after his campaign released an ad featuring a disco ball, a gigantic old-school phone, a Rubik’s Cube and an unflattering photo of Mr. McCain.

The campy ad - which referenced the 72-year-old’s confession he doesn’t use the Internet and “can’t send e-mail” - says: “Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t.”

Its release was accompanied by a memo from campaign manager David Plouffe that said Mr. McCain has shown “he is willing to go into the gutter to win this election.”

“His campaign has become nothing but a series of smears, lies, and cynical attempts to distract from the issues that matter to the American people,” Mr. Plouffe wrote.

Team McCain responded by calling Mr. Plouffe a hypocrite, and dubbed Mr. Obama “desperate” in the face of slumping poll numbers with less than eight weeks to go until the election.

“The irony of Obama’s campaign manager putting out a memo decrying negative politics while releasing a personal attack ad captures the very hypocrisy which is the Obama campaign,” the McCain campaign said.

Mr. McCain has seized a slim lead in several national polls and is inching uncomfortably close to Team Obama in key battleground states.

The Republicans, meanwhile, parsed words to say the Democratic ticket has “lashed out” and is being “disrespectful” toward McCain running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“He was the world’s biggest celebrity, but his star’s fading,” the ad states. “So they lashed out at Sarah Palin.”

It claims she was “dismissed” as “good looking,” even though Obama running mate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. meant the words as a compliment.

“That backfired, so they said she was doing, ‘what she was told,’” the ad continues, citing a portion of a quote from Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

FactCheck.org said the ad “distorts quotes” from both Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, and said it suggests the out-of-context Axelrod quote came from the nominee. It concluded the ad was “particularly egregious” and “misleading.”

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org also debunked a McCain ad from earlier in the week that claimed Mr. Obama was being sexist when comparing Mr. McCain’s economic policy to putting “lipstick on a pig.”

Obama supporters were glad for the shift to a more combative tone, with one man asking: “For those of us who have given you our support, and more importantly our money, when and how are you going to start fighting back against attack ads and the smear campaign.”

“Our ads have been pretty tough,” Mr. Obama responded. “I just have a different philosophy and that is that I’m going to respond with the truth.”

Mr. Obama said he knows that some supporters are “getting nervous, because they’ve seen this movie before every four years.”

He said the Republican ads are “just fabricated, they’re just made up,” and then agreed with a voter in the crowd: “Lies, that’s the word I was looking for.”

He promised his campaign would be “hitting back hard … on the issues that matter to families.”

He blasted Mr. McCain, saying his tax plan “leaves 100 million people out” and “he doesn’t have a plan to make college more affordable, I do.”

“If they lie about us then we will correct the record. We’re not just going to sit back and watch; we’re going to make sure that anything that’s out there, we are immediately responding to,” he said.

In Dover a voter labeled McCain running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as “a feminine version of Dick Cheney and George Bush,” but Mr. Obama chose to ignore the reference to the vice-presidential nominee.

Instead he lashed out at the press, saying “the media likes to report on the horse race” and quoting a Fox News executive as saying the media only cares about “polls, scandals, gaffes and attacks.”

He noted the three upcoming debates - the first is Sept. 26 - and said they will provide “an unfiltered opportunity for the American people” to hear the candidates’ respective plans.

Mr. Obama said Mr. McCain will represent President Bush’s policies on the fall ballot and serve only the “special interests” and the “wealthiest of the wealthy,” while he is the one who is actually “fighting for the middle class of this country.”

It was less than two weeks ago the Obama team suspended any negative campaigning and scrapped a day’s worth of events as Hurricane Gustav approached New Orleans, urging supporters to donate time and money to the Red Cross.

Despite Hurricane Ike threatening the Texas Gulf Coast, Mr. Obama did not pull any punches.

Mr. Obama on Friday used Mr. McCain’s own words against him from a Sept. 11 Service Nation forum the previous evening.

Mr. Obama read the McCain quote to the Dover voters: “It’s easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

The Arizona senator had been praising his running mate’s service as a mayor, saying it put her closer to everyday people’s concerns.

The McCain campaign responded that it was a “shame” that the service discussion commemorating the terrorist attacks was “the basis for a distorted political attack.”

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds noted that “during the same event, Barack Obama reduced his own service in the U.S. Senate to mindless yakking.”

Mr. Obama had made a similar remark when talking about mayors’ work.

“The mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because that’s where the rubber hits the road,” he said at the Service Nation forum in New York. “We yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.”

While Mr. Obama made several stops in this battleground state that helped Mr. McCain capture his nomination this past winter, Mr. McCain appeared on the all-female daytime show “The View,” where one of the hosts called his Obama ads “lies.”

“They’re not lies,” the Republican said. He said Mr. Obama should not have made the lipstick comment, adding his rival “chooses his words very carefully.”

In response to the defense of the ads, the Obama camp said Mr. McCain was “running the sleaziest campaign since South Carolina in 2000,” a race that smeared the McCain family and torpedoed his bid to defeat George Bush for the Republican presidential primary.

“It’s clear that McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election,” said Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan.

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