House Hunting

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 22, 2008; 7:03 AM

Four years ago, the Republicans tried to turn John Kerry into a windsurfing elitist, poking fun at Teresa's ketchup fortune and all the fancy houses she owned.

The Democrats thought that was silly and cynical.

Now it's turn-the-tables time. The latest line of attack against John McCain has to do with his real estate holdings, financed by Cindy's beer fortune.

This is the state of presidential politics today. Never mind that some very wealthy presidents--FDR, JFK--did plenty for the downtrodden, as did Nelson Rockefeller in New York. It's kind of a cheap, bogus argument--or at least it feels that way when it's done to your guy.

It's certainly fair for Barack Obama's side to fight back against the whole airhead celebrity rap. And it's true that while Obama was raised by a single mother in modest circumstances, McCain was the son and grandson of admirals. Character is important in a race for the White House. But these races often seem to descend into caricature.

The latest triggering event is the following: "Sen. John McCain said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own. 'I think -- I'll have my staff get to you,' McCain told Politico."

Obama rushed out a new ad. Liberals are pumped. Carpetbagger's Steve Benen:

"The exact number isn't especially relevant. The point is a) McCain is so rich he owns a lot of homes; b) McCain is so out of touch he can't even remember the number of homes he owns; and c) despite his extravagant wealth, McCain is anxious to push an agenda that favors the rich even more while screwing over the middle class and working families."

And don't forget the $4.7 million condo in Phoenix--which turns out to be two apartments combined.

At the Political Machine blog, David Knowles takes the high road--for about two seconds:

"I'm not a fan of stoking populist anger by pointing out that a candidate is rich. Wealth in itself doesn't necessarily mean a person won't do great things for those less fortunate. Take Michael Bloomberg as an example of a guy who really does care about the poor.

"That said, the fact that McCain doesn't know how many residences he owns, be they condos or not, will not endear him to the middle class voters who are struggling in today's economy. And the 'I'll have my staff get to you,' reeks of Thurston Howell III like nobody's business. 'Lovey, call up the servants and ask them how many fabulous homes we own!' "

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