John McCain’s presidential campaign is sidestepping heat in what they now call a “boneheaded” statement by one of the campaign’s top economic policy advisors. The gaffe occurred September 16 while discussing McCain’s economic experiences on the Commerce Committee during his years in the Senate. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the campaign’s senior domestic policy adviser, reached in his pocket and held up his BlackBerry cell phone. "Telecommunications of the United States, the premiere innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create," Holtz-Eakin quipped.
The remark stirred up memories of a similar blunder by Al Gore during his 2000 presidential bid. Remarking that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” by directing the necessary funds, Gore was chastised by the media and George Bush for “claiming that he invented the Internet.” The controversy was a deciding issue for independent voters in what is considered the closest election in American history.
Possibly empathizing with what they believe was unfair treatment of Gore, it appears that the Obama campaign will not exploit Holtz-Eakin’s misstep, but will use it to their political advantage. "If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week," remarked Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
Holtz-Eakin’s remarks also spark some suspicions. McCain has been quoted as being “an illiterate” when it comes to computers and e-mail. While his wife and his opponent have been spotted fingering through their BlackBerries on the campaign trail, McCain is rarely seen cuddling up to the device.