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Obama ad slams McCain for being computer illiterate*

September 12, 2008 | 12:01 pm

It probably was only a matter of time before Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, whose campaign has displayed its tech savvy through tactics such as aggressive online fundraising, use of social networking and texting the news of his running mate selection, hit Republican rival John McCain for his admitted technological difficulties.

Today, the Obama campaign wielded McCain's past comments -- that he doesn't send e-mail and is computer "illiterate" -- like a blunt instrument. A biting new TV ad (pictured above) uses those examples to brand the 72-year-old Arizona senator as out of touch with today's world.

Entitled "Still," the ad starts with the word "1982" -- the year McCain was elected to Congress -- over an image of a disco ball. As music reminiscent of early TV commercials plays, more out-of-date images flash by: a woman using a brick-size cellphone, a record player, an early personal computer and a Rubik's Cube.

"Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn't," the announcer says. "He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy and favors $200 billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class."

It then shows a picture of McCain and George Bush and says, "After one president who was out of touch, we just can't afford more of the same."

Hitting an opponent on economic issues is standard political strategy. But going after a candidate for his skill with computers and e-mail ...


Person John McCain
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...is a new, 21st century line of attack.

The McCain campaign charged that it's untrue.

"John McCain travels with a laptop," said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. "This is a senseless tactic from Obama's campaign because they're struggling with the realization that the American people understand he is not equipped to deliver change because his record has no bipartisanship or significant legislative accomplishment in it."

The issue of McCain's tech skills began when he sat down for an interview with TechCrunch's Michael Arrington in November. Asked, "Are you a Mac or a PC guy?" McCain laughed and said "I am illiterate." (Arrington nonetheless endorsed McCain in the Republican primary, dismissing the candidate's computer illiteracy as common for his generation and not relevant to how he would handle the information economy.)

McCain repeated the "illiterate" comment in an interview with Politico and Yahoo News in January, saying, "I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance that I can get."

In July, McCain told the New York Times that he was "becoming computer literate" and learning to go online. But he also said he did not send e-mail.

"I don't e-mail, I've never felt the particular need to e-mail," he said.

Bounds said it was "factually inaccurate" to allege that McCain can't send e-mail. But Bounds would not say whether McCain uses e-mail or how often.

"I'm not going to get into the specifics of John McCain's e-mail correspondence. There couldn't be anything more off topic than that," Bounds said.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Video: Obama campaign's "Still" TV ad, via YouTube

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*UPDATED 12:40 P.M.: Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said the campaign stood by the ad's assertion about McCain's e-mail ability. In an e-mail statement, Shapiro had the following to say about the relevance of McCain's tech skills:

“The ad goes directly at the fundamental issue in this race: John McCain is out of touch with the American people and unable to address the challenges facing the country in the 21st century. It delivers the message in a light-hearted, humorous way that Americans can relate to. The overwhelming majority of Americans of all ages use computers today. Our economy wouldn’t survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats. It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our President and our Commander in Chief doesn’t know how to send an email."

 

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