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John McCain does his own German thing

July 24, 2008 |  3:47 pm

As the time neared for Barack Obama's speech to a huge crowd massed in Berlin, John McCain paid homage of a sort to Germany -- lunching today at Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus in the historic German Village section of Columbus, Ohio.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain countered the speech by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in Berlin by lunching at a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio The eatery choice was the latest in a Republican effort to none-too-subtly turn up its collective nose at Obama's widely anticipated appearance in the city that once personified the Cold War divide.

As the Ticket noted previously, the Republican National Committee bought airtime (which could not have been that expensive) for ads attacking Obama in three U.S. cities named Berlin, and then continued the schtick with broadcast plans for the spots in a trio of U.S. cities named Paris (Obama will be stopping in the French capital as he wraps up his world tour).

McCain ate a bratwurst at Schmidt's -- making a point of noting that the eatery has no link whatsoever to Steve Schmidt, the aide he recently tapped to ride herd over his campaign -- and indulged in a chocolate cream puff for dessert. His dining companions included best pal Lindsey Graham, the GOP senator from South Carolina, and a covey of local businessmen.

As he digested his Teutonic fare, McCain held a brief media availability outside Schmidt's Fudge Haus (it rarely hurts for a business to diversify). He immediately pressed what is becoming one of his party's main narratives in this year's campaign: that Obama is prematurely, and arrogantly, assuming the trappings of the presidency.

Asked about the point he sought to make with his stop at Schmidt's, McCain said, "Well, I’d love to give a speech in Germany ... or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in. But I would much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for the office of the presidency."

A more barbed reaction to Obama's address came from the communications staff at the Republican National Committee (they, like their counterparts at the Democratic National Committee, get paid to mercilessly needle the other side).

In a release headlined "Ich Bin Ein Hypocrite," the RNC scoffed that while Obama urged Germans to hang tough in the fight against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, he has failed on that front in the U.S. Senate.

As usual, McCain's face-time before the cameras was less than carefully choreographed. As he responded to a handful of questions, some pesky wind chimes ...

... jangled sporadically in the background.

His restaurant of choice is a Columbus institution; the latest family member to run it is Geoff Schmidt, 58. Given less than an hour's notice, he and his staff handled the sudden intrusion of the McCain campaign entourage with apparent aplomb.

Schmidt told pool reporter Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal that although he was not aware of a previous stop by a presidential candidate, lots of personages had frequented his place. Those include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helps host an annual bodybuilding and fitness event in Columbus (a city he has called his second home).

Schmidt also showed his own political skills in dealing with the national press.

Holmes reported that when she asked him if he was a Republican or a Democrat, Schmidt "grabbed your pooler by the arm, looked her in the eye and gave her a tight-lipped smile. 'We’re Americans,' he said with a laugh. 'We serve everybody.' "

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Associated Press

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