Behind McCain's Counterattack

The McCain campaign's rapid response to the Times story has been deft.

(1) Don't hide -- John and Cindy McCain answered any and every question from the press, in a single setting, less than 24 hours after the story broke. They appeared calm and collected; the symbolism of the two together was reassuring.

(1a) -- Don't let the candidate respond immediately. Last night, McCain was asked by a reporter for comment. He smiled and said he hadn't read it yet... that gives the impression that he wasn't worried about it enough to read it immediately.

(2) Find an enemy -- this one's easy: the New York Times -- the "liberal" New York Times, according to McCain adviser Charlie Black. Use phases like "Jason Blair" and "Judith Miller."

(3) Shame reporters -- imply that it's shameful for reporters to ask questions about the romantic angle... imply that they're engaging in gutter politics when they do so.

(4) High-powered surrogates -- they blanketed the morning shows for McCain, and they'll be everywhere else this afternoon.

(5) Detailed rebuttals -- not even to the whole article, mind you -- but any sort of word-expensive response like the 1200 word essay the campaign released last night -- is likely to foster the impression that the campaign has facts on its side, too.