McCain's TV Ad Prompts Chatter About 'American President'

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sen. John McCain launched his first television ad of the general election yesterday -- a 60-second commercial that links the candidate's heroism during the Vietnam War with his call for Americans to "stay strong" and "never surrender" in Iraq, though the ad does not mention that war directly.

Generating the most attention, though, is the ad's final line: "John McCain: The American president Americans have been waiting for." It appears to be an allusion to Obama's much-quoted line that "we are the ones we have been waiting for." But it has also sparked an online debate about what is meant by "American president."

Bloggers and commenters on political Web sites wondered what other kind of president American voters would be selecting. Is "American" a harmless patriotic modifier, or is McCain seeking to raise doubts about Sen. Barack Obama, a potential opponent who has an exotic African name, spent much of his youth living in a Muslim country and attended a church run by a pastor known for his occasional anti-American rhetoric?

So far, McCain has made clear that he will not tolerate some insinuations about Obama, such as having his supporters openly harping on Obama's middle name, Hussein. But the ad suggests that more subtle contrasts may be a part of the McCain arsenal.

-- Alec MacGillis

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