Campaigns argue over ‘exotic’ Hawaii
Hawaii and its perception as an exotic vacation destination was again thrust into the debate on which presidential candidate is more in touch with the average American.
New ads released yesterday by Sen. Barack Obama attempt to portray Sen. John McCain as rich and out of touch, seizing on a recent interview in which McCain did not know how many homes he owned.
McCain's campaign quickly rebutted the Obama attack and tried to paint Obama, and his recent vacation to Hawaii, in the same light.
"Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?" said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
The comment comes not long after ABC News commentator Cokie Roberts had questioned Obama's Hawaii visit, saying it "has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place." Her stance drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, among others, who called such comments "Neanderthal ideas."
Obama, who was born in Hawaii and still visits his maternal grandmother here, spent a week on Oahu this month to rest and prepare for next week's Democratic National Convention.
Aside from being erroneous - Hawaii has no private beaches - state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz called Rogers' statement "insulting to Hawaii residents."
He said the McCain campaign's negative references to Hawaii also insulted the thousands of military personnel who have been stationed here.
Rep. Kymberly Pine, a co-chairwoman of McCain's campaign in Hawaii, disagreed, saying the state works hard to portray itself as a top vacation destination.
"Any time Hawaii is called an exotic vacation destination, that is good for Hawaii and our tourism," Pine said in an e-mail. "This is what we spend millions of dollars on every year to promote.
"McCain can only use Hawaii against Obama if this is something he is ashamed of."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.