John McCain may not be a BlackBerry user. But Tuesday, one of his aides was ready to give the Republican presidential nominee credit for one of the technological marvels of the modern age.
In a comment that brought to mind the 2000 presidential campaign flap over whether Al Gore had invented the Internet, McCain's senior policy advisor said the candidate was responsible for the BlackBerry.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin held up his little device to show reporters in Miami as he sought to explain why McCain was qualified to lead the nation out of its economic morass.
"He did this," Holtz-Eakin said. "The premier innovation in the past 15 years comes right from the commerce committee. So, you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create."
McCain is a veteran member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which oversees telecommunication as well as aviation, trade and other economic sectors. He headed the panel from 1997 to 2001 and in 2003-04.
"He both regulated and deregulated that industry," Holtz-Eakin said.
McCain, however, has not focused on telecom, has never chaired the telecommunications subcommittee and was one of only two senators to vote against a sweeping telecom deregulation bill in 1996.
The senator from Arizona later laughed off innovative acumen attributed to him, according to campaign senior aide Matt McDonald. "He would not claim to be the inventor of anything, much less the BlackBerry. This was obviously a boneheaded joke by a staffer," McDonald said.
-- Noam N. Levey