08/01/08 — A rock star? McCain ad sends a message: Be wary of personalities

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A rock star? McCain ad sends a message: Be wary of personalities

Critics of the recent campaign ad by John McCain about the fame vs. substance of Barack Obama are missing the most important point of what really was a clumsy attempt at message-sending.

The pictures of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears might have made people turn away and dismiss the claim, but the reality is -- people can easily jump on bandwagons, without really listening to what the candidate has to say.

And there are a lot of hype and promises surrounding the Obama campaign.

For now, the Democratic nominee is a media darling -- gathering rockstar-like adoration at campaign stops around the country. And, sometimes, his speeches seem to be more designed to ignite the crowd than to actually deal with real answers and real concerns.

So, McCain, proving that he can be a little out of touch when it comes to who is hot and who is not, chose two of the most notorious publicity hounds on the planet, and used them to make a point about his opponent's depth and his desire for the spotlight. And buried inside the ad were some specific issues and both candidates' alleged positions on each.

Too bad the images of the celebrities were so distracting.

But even though the ad was not the finest piece of campaign material, that doesn't mean that there was not a point buried in there somewhere.

And it is this: Beware the cult of personality.

A president should not be a media magnet -- and he should not be a "star." He should be a leader with vision and opinions on issues. He should be willing to make the hard choices and know what he is talking about when he does. He does not need to draw large crowds or to be on the cover of People magazine. He needs substance, not swagger

Does Obama have that presence and leadership quality? We won't find out on "Oprah." Debates and issues are what should decide this race. So, until we hear them, the commercials and campaign soundbites are just ... television.

Published in Editorials on August 1, 2008 10:57 AM