Hold the presses: feather-brained celebrity may not be so feather-brained after all. The socialite Paris Hilton has now mocked John McCain with a retaliatory "campaign ad" – and it could just be funnier than its inspiration, the Republican presidential candidate's spot likening his rival Barack Obama to herself and her fellow denizen of the gossip columns Britney Spears.
Never one to miss a chance for publicity, Ms Hilton delivered her response in a clip posted on the humorous website FunnyorDie.com, billed as "An Ad for The Paris Hilton Presidential Campaign". It kicks off with a photo of Mr McCain among pictures of the "Golden Girls", the bickering blue-rinse heroines of a TV sitcom from the Eighties, followed by images of the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt, and of Yoda, the wise and ancient Jedi Master from the Star Wars movies.
Like the McCain ad, Hilton's offering opens with a narrator. The original describes Mr Obama as "the biggest celebrity in the world". In the Hilton comeback, Mr McCain is dubbed "the oldest celebrity in the world". At which point enter the lady herself, reclining in a skimpy swimsuit on a white beach chair.
"Hey America, I'm Paris Hilton," she begins (as if the country didn't know), "and I'm a celebrity too, only I'm not from the olden days and I'm not promising change like that other guy. I'm just hot," she adds with a smirk, claiming that the McCain ad clearly indicates she is entering the presidential race.
The interplay of politics and celebrity are always hard to read – and never more so than in the lull between the primaries and the start of the real action when the candidates announce their vice-presidential running mates, and the conventions kick off the autumn campaign proper.
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But it is at least conceivable that Mr McCain's gambit may backfire against him. For one thing, the placing of Mr Obama in an unholy trinity of celebrity alongside Ms Hilton and Ms Spears has run into a volley of maternal criticism. Even Roberta McCain, the candidate's redoubtable 96-year-old mother, has described the ad as "kinda stupid". More scathing still was Kathy Hilton, proud parent of Paris, and who also happens to be a McCain donor. "A complete waste of the country's time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs," she fulminated in an article posted on the liberal website, The Huffington Post. "It was a completely frivolous way to choose the next president of the United States."
Potentially most damaging however, the Hilton ad draws attention yet again to Mr McCain's age (72 at the end of this month), which may prove his Achilles heel. The Arizona Republican, she notes, is old – "like super-old, old enough to remember when dancing was a sin and beer was served in a bucket".
Nonetheless, she continues, "that wrinkly white-haired guy" had used her in one of his campaign ads, "which I guess means I'm running for President. So thanks for the endorsement, white-haired dude", she states. "I want America to know that I'm like, totally ready to lead."
To prove it, she sets out her own energy policy, a blend of McCain and Obama, combing the former's offshore oil drilling plan and the latter's call for incentives for new energy technology: "Energy crisis solved! I'll see you at the debates, bitches!"
But first things first. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pick out a vice- president... I'm thinking [the singer-songwriter] Rihanna." Only then does she sign off. "I'll see you at the White House. Oh, and I might paint it pink. I hope that's cool with you guys."
It seems to be, with the McCain campaign at least, and whatever Roberta McCain might think. "It sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain's ... approach to America's energy crisis," intoned Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman. "Paris Hilton may not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan." As of yesterday, there was no reply from the Democrat. Mr Obama probably calculates that even for a celebrity politician, celebrity spats are not worth getting into.