Sen. John McCain's top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called "liars." They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama's record.
But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.
The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's charges against Obama and Sen. Joe BidenSarah Palin when -- in each case -- the truth would have been damaging enough
It's clear that the McCain campaign has basically decided on using the Bush playbook for handling the press. But I think the campaign made one critical error. The whole bully/lie/clamp-up method of handling reporters works swimmingly if you're already in power. Not so much if you're still trying to get power. It's fine to appoint unqualified hacks to office, especially if you're in your second term. Not so much when you're still running for your first.
The McCain folks have really pushed the envelope on this press-manipulation thing, which ultimately, I think, will prove to be a costly mistake. First, as I said, these dudes aren't in power yet. But second, and most importantly, anyone who's ever gone to public school knows that even the meekest, most bespectacled, nerdiest kid has a breaking point. Ditto for the White House. Even the most cowardly stenographers have a little "I ain't no punk" in them. And this is exactly the sort of thing that triggers that impulse:
Schmidt also complained of Obama backers' attacks on McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"As soon as Gov. Palin was nominated, one of ... Obama's chief campaign surrogates, [Florida Rep.] Robert Wexler, went out and accused her of being a Nazi sympathizer," Schmidt said. "Where is the outrage to that aspersion on the part of some of the biggest newspapers in the country?"
But Wexler didn't call Palin a Nazi sympathizer. He called former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan a Nazi sympathizer, and attacked Palin for allegedly having endorsed him.
To paraphrase Kevin Hart from 40 Year Old Virgin, you throwing a lot of false charges at me, so I'm goin take em as disrespect. Watch your mouth. And help me with my "Obama's an effete Chablis-sipper" narrative. I'm on deadline son!