I mentioned yesterday my general sympathy for whatever hapless underling in the McCain camp had cranked out the now-notorious article for Contingencies: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Actuaries.
But in expressing comradely support for a beleaguered staff member, I did not mean to suggest that the article was a mis-representation of McCain's views, or that it was unfair for the Democrats to pounce on it as part of their economic argument against putting McCain in charge or extending Republican rule:
On the contrary! The episode was a "gaffe" only in the sense classically defined by my friend Mike Kinsley: the ill-timed utterance of what you really think. This was the political equivalent of saying, "You know, what I really hate about Fred is..." even as your friends frantically try to signal that Fred has just walked up behind you.
It's completely fair for McCain to be judged on the article -- which reflects his views, just not views he would have chosen to emphasize in the middle of a banking panic -- and for reporters and Democrats to force him to explain where, exactly, he thinks regulation is still needed for the health-care industry or in finance. (It would be fun, but in some sporting sense unfair, to get Gov. Palin to answer the same question.) Still, I sympathize with the staffer who "wrote" the article assuming it would vanish into neverland and now is inevitably taking the heat.