Barack Obama has a new ad out that seems to be responding to McCain's celebrity ads. The gist of the ad is the old childhood retort: "I know you are, but what am I?" The ad shows clips of McCain on David Letterman, the View, SNL, and other shows. There's also clips of him being hugged by George Bush (which I think should appear in every Obama ad). It's not a bad ad in that it points out the hypocrisy of McCain's campaign, but I don't think it's a very good ad either. The problem with it is that it cedes the terms of the debate to McCain. Now the ad wars are about who's the bigger celebrity. That's ridiculous. It was silly when McCain did it and it's just as silly now that Obama's doing it.
As Joe Klein points out in this excellent column, there is a very real choice before voters this year that has nothing to do with who has been on TV more. McCain and Obama offer starkly contrasting views on foreign policy, domestic policy, economic policy, and any other kind of policy that there is. This is a real election about where we want to go as a country. At least, it could be a real election about where we want to go as a country. We just aren't getting that right now. Instead we're getting a comprehensive debate that boils down to "You're a celebrity!" "No, you're a celebrity!" "No, you're a celebrity!" "No, you are!" It makes me sad.