(AFP) – Sep 11, 2008
NEW YORK (AFP) — Barack Obama sought Thursday to refocus the ill-tempered White House campaign back onto voter anxieties as he castigated the "lies and phony outrage" of his Republican foes over a farmyard taunt.
"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," Obama said at a school in Norfolk, Virginia, on Wednesday, reprising his line to attack the Republican ticket's claim to be "maverick" reformers at odds with their own party.
In a new Internet ad, John McCain's campaign accused Obama of a sexist "smear" against the Republican's running mate Sarah Palin . But Obama aides flagged a YouTube video showing McCain using the same phrase himself.
"They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know that it's catnip to the news media," said Obama on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
"We have an energy crisis. We have an education system that is not working for too many of our children. We have an economy that is creating hardship all across America. We have two wars going on," the Illinois senator said.
"I don't care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage."
The McCain ad showed a clip from Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention last week when she quipped that the only difference between a "hockey mom" like herself and a pitbull was "lipstick."
It then pulled Obama's line from Tuesday, delivered at another rally in Virginia, out of context and featured a television newscaster decrying "sexism" during the Democratic primary race between Obama and Hillary Clinton.
"Ready to lead? No," a caption concluded next to a photo of Obama. "Ready to smear? Yes."
But Obama aides highlighted the video of McCain, at an event in Iowa last October, describing Clinton's efforts to revive her push for universal healthcare, which failed in the 1990s, as putting "lipstick on a pig."
The Democratic nominee poured comic fuel on the fire with an appearance Wednesday on "Late Show with David Letterman," a late-night talk show on national television.
What he had meant, Obama said, was that Palin was the "lipstick" gloss to John McCain's "pig" policies.
The McCain campaign ad came just after another hugely controversial spot that had accused Obama of favoring explicit sex education for kindergarten-aged children.
Apoplectic Obama aides said the Democrat had supported a Senate measure last year that would have provided funds to teach young children about how to avoid falling prey to pedophiles.
Palin recieved a warm welcome home in Alaska late Wednesday during her first appearance there since being named to the Republican ticket.
Without mentioning her Democratic rivals, Palin used the platform to McCain as a zealous reformer who will shake up Washington, salvage the economy and protect the nation.
"John McCain, he doesn't run with that Washington herd," she told a cheering crowd in Fairbanks. "That's only one more reason to send the maverick of the Senate right into the White House."
McCain also took a swipe at Washington's insular culture.
"You're sick of it. I'm sick of it. We'll bring about change," he said, before a later appearance at a Philadelphia diner where the Republican struggled to be heard above the yells of Obama supporters.
McCain, fueled by a re-energized Republican base since selecting the conservative Palin, retained a five-point lead over Obama -- 48 percent to 43 -- in the latest Gallup tracking poll.
But Obama professed unconcern for the polls, and said a mature election debate was being drowned out by "cynical" ploys such as the McCain camp's outrage over his lipstick comment.
"It's a game, it's a sport. And maybe if this wasn't such a serious time, then that would be OK," he said.
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