Campaigns get personal, McCain called 'erratic'

October 5, 2008 9:28:57 AM PDT
Democrat Barack Obama's campaign called his Republican rival "erratic" in a television commercial released Sunday as both campaigns stepped up personal attacks. "Our financial system in turmoil," an announcer says in the ad. "And John McCain? Erratic in a crisis. Out of touch on the economy."

The ad, slated to start running Monday on national cable, seeks to capitalize on John McCain's response to the nation's financial crisis while rebutting Republican attacks on Obama's character.

As Congress worked to pass the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, McCain announced that he would suspend his campaign and skip the first presidential debate while he worked on a solution. He inevitably attended the debate even as the deal in Congress faltered.

Republicans argue that McCain's actions showed leadership while addressing a serious issue.

"In the midst of it all, I think you saw Sen. McCain, unlike Sen. Obama, come off the campaign trail, because that's John McCain in the middle of a crisis," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a McCain supporter, said Sunday in a broadcast interview.

Democrats say McCain tried to politicize the crisis with a campaign gimmick, and they've adopted "erratic" as their buzzword to describe him.

"He was erratic," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said of McCain. "One day, no bailout. The next day, a bailout. One day, I'm suspending my campaign. The next day, I'm not."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, "I thought John McCain was very erratic in how he behaved."

The ad refers to McCain advisers saying they want to shift the debate from the nation's struggling economy while attacking Obama's character.

"No wonder his campaign's announced a plan to turn a page on the financial crisis, distract with dishonest, dishonorable assaults against Barack Obama," the ad says. "Struggling families can't turn the page on this economy and we can't afford another president who's this out of touch."

On Saturday, McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, said Obama is "palling around with terrorists" and doesn't see the U.S. like other Americans.

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. She echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.

"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she said.

Palin was referring to Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a member of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground. They worked on community boards years ago and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama early in his career. Obama, who was a child when the Weathermen were planting bombs, has denounced Ayers' radical views and actions.

Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said the Palin attack was "fair game."

"If the shoe was on the other foot and John McCain had one of his earliest campaign events at the home of somebody who had formed a right-wing group that had bombed buildings and then had been on a board with the guy for several years, you bet the Obama campaign would have been raising that question," Lieberman said. "It's just the way it is."

McCaskill said the "American people deserve so much better."

"Do they really think America is going to think that Barack Obama's palling around with terrorists?" McCaskill said. "What that man did Barack Obama has condemned. And by the way, he did it when Barack Obama was 8 years old. Come on."

Lieberman and McCaskill were interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."

Feinstein was interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation."