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Right Venue, Wrong Message

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Paris, of course, had some comedy writers create a response ("See you at the debates, bitches!"), which she read to the cameras while sunbathing. It was the most intelligent thing she's ever done, and also extends McCain's free media news cycle.

Rationally, of course, the comparisons made no sense -- how does a black Harvard Law grad who worked as a community organizer compare in any way with blonde airheads? But there was genius in the meanness -- the ad suggests, almost subliminally, that Obama is either a vapid party girl or Hitler. Still it's not exactly a swift boat attack. Everyone saw it for what it was.

So it was amazingly dumb for the Obama camp to respond early last week -- weeks after the McCain ad debuted -- with a pathetically tepid tit-for-tat. It doesn't acknowledge the McCain spot (a mistake) and instead takes the exact same low-down tack: "For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity," an announcer says, while we see clips of McCain on Leno, Letterman and Saturday Night Live. What's so bad about that? It only makes the Cainster seem jocular and contemporary. Even the clip of McCain hugging George Bush on the White House Lawn places him at the center of power. It's nowhere near as ruthless as the McCain version, which suggests that his opponent is either a sociopath or a girly-man or both. (McCain continued the girly-man shtick when he made fun of the tire gauge proposal -- too "airy," especially considering that the manly Republicans want to drill, drill, drill!)

As it is, with this response, it's like two 5-year-olds crying to their mothers. "He called me a celebrity!" And, "He went on Letterman!" "No you went on Letterman!" By coming back with this "I know you are, but what am I?" answer, we're all stumped as to exactly what the insult is.