Obama Concedes Racial Dimension to 'Dollar Bill' Comments; Says McCain Campaign Not Racist, But Cynical

In Cape Canaveral, Fla., this morning, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., blasted off against the attacks coming from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"This is the same thing that was done four years ago or eight years ago," Obama said, per ABC News' Sunlen Miller. "You guys are all familiar with this … we have seen this movie before."

Obama said, “The one thing we know about the team that John McCain's assembled -- because it's a carryover from some of the folks that worked on Bush campaigns and some of the Republican campaigns in the past -- is that they're very good at negative campaigns. They're not so good at governing. And that's why if you think about this week, what they've been good at is distraction. You've got statistics saying we've lost another 50,000 jobs. That Florida's in recession for the first time in a decade and a half. And what was being talked about were Paris and Britney."

But Obama also admitted that, despite what Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs told reporters, there was a racial dimension to his Missouri remarks in which he said McCain and the Republicans would make an issue of the fact that he doesn't look like presidents who have been on the dollar bills.

"I don’t think it’s accurate to say that my comments have nothing to do with race," Obama said. "Here's what I was saying and I think this should be undisputed: That I don’t come out of central casting, when it comes to presidential races. For a whole range of reasons. I’m young, I’m new to the national scene, my name is Barack Obama, I am African American, I was born in Hawaii, I spent time in Indonesia. I do not have the typical biography of a presidential candidate. What that means is that I’m sort of unfamiliar and people are still trying to get a fix on who I am, where I come from, what my values are and so forth in a way that might not be true if I seemed more familiar."

"And so what I think has been an approach [of] the McCain campaign is to say, 'He’s risky,'" Obama continued. "To try to divert focus from the fact that they don’t have any new ideas when it comes to fixing the economy or dealing with health care or dealing with education. … Let me be clear: In no way do I think that John McCain’s campaign was being racist; I think they’re cynical. And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues. And so it’s of a piece with the Britney/Paris ad or the most recent Web site, or the allegation that somehow I wouldn’t go visit the troops unless I had reporters with me, which every reporter who was on the trip knows is absolutely not true."

John McCain’s camp responded to Obama’s remarks that the presumptive Republican nominee was running a "cynical" campaign for highlighting Barack Obama’s worldwide celebrity status.

"We're glad the Obama campaign retracted Barack Obama’s accusation because it was absolutely false, and we’re moving on," said Tucker Bounds, spokesman for John McCain 2008, in a statement. "The only 'cynical' candidate in this election is Barack Obama, who has opposed every element of John McCain's comprehensive energy plan that includes additional oil drilling, affordable nuclear energy and gas tax relief for hardworking families."

Obama said he didn't think there was a perception that he's arrogant or presumptuous, though his Republican opponents are pushing it, most recently in the McCain campaign's "The One" Web video, in which they paint him as a false messiah.

"It's not really clear exactly what it's based on," Obama said. "If I was presumptuous or taking this for granted, I wouldn't be working this hard this week.

"I'm beat," he said, laughing.

- jpt

The statement from the John McCain 2008 campaign was added after the initial post today.

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