McCain Accuses Bush of Character Assassination

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - After equating Texas Governor George W Bush's trustworthiness to that of President Bill Clinton, Arizona Senator John McCain is now accusing Bush of running a "character assassination" campaign. McCain also compared what has become the political battle of his life to that of Star Wars character Luke Skywalker, being shot at from all sides.

At a campaign stop in Traverse City, Michigan, McCain told supporters they "deserve better than the trash that's on your television set and over your radio." McCain told supporters to reject "negative campaigning, reject this character assassination.''

McCain's charges come on the day before the Michigan primary and just two days after losing the South Carolina primary during which he pulled an ad asking viewers if the country can afford another president in the White House they can't trust.

During a GOP debate which aired on CNN, Bush said the attack was "about as low a blow as you can give" in the Republican Party and displayed a campaign flyer McCain was distributing which attacked Bush's position.

McCain initially denied distributing the flyer, but Bush reiterated the disclosure at the bottom of the flyer reading, "Paid for by McCain 2000, Inc."

Bush later lashed out at McCain at a news conference in Florence, South Carolina saying, "A wheel has come off the straight-talk express," a reference to McCain's campaign bus. "John McCain can't have it both ways. He can't sit on a high horse while his campaign takes a low road."

But in Michigan McCain has added a new twist to Bush's words saying he "will not take the low road to the highest office in the land. I want the Presidency in the best way, not the worst way."

"I will never let ambition overcome principle, never, never," McCain added.

In Saginaw, Michigan today McCain equated himself to Star Wars character Luke Skywalker "trying to get out of the death star" and rattled-off a list of elected officials who have lined up behind Bush including Michigan's Republican Governor John Engler.

"They're shooting at me from everywhere," McCain said. "Everybody's against me: Governor Engler, Governor Bush, all the governors, all the Senators. But we're gonna kill 'em, right? We're gonna get 'em. I'm getting out of that death star and we're gonna win this election."

Seeking the support of the teen-aged crowd, or at least their parents, McCain jokingly made reference to underage voting, but had to re-assure the audience that he was only kidding.

"If you're sixteen, try and sneak in," McCain joked and then emphasized, "That's a joke. That's a joke. That's a joke."

At campaign rally in East Lansing Michigan today, Bush spoke about the current tax code, decrying the income tax rates as the highest since World War II. "At some point in time, this is going to affect our economy," Bush said.

The Detroit News released the results of a survey among Michigan voters showing the two in a statistical tie for the Republican presidential nomination.

Bush is heralding his South Carolina win over McCain as his ability to bring Republicans together while McCain continues to espouse his Prisoner of War status.

"I needed to show them that not only could I win, but I could more importantly ignite and unite our party," Bush told The Detroit News after taking South Carolina in a stunning upset over McCain.

The News reports that McCain is "comfortable in the role of underdog, 'like an old fighter pilot.'"

Bush has currently earned 34 delegates to the Republican presidential nominating convention. McCain has three.