A week and a half ago, when Barack Obama seemed to be floundering and the McCain-Palin team was in ascent, I mentioned Chuck Spinney's observation that McCain might in fact be in the process of destroying himself.
Spinney's argument -- with excerpts after the jump -- was that McCain's tactical, day by day, "winning the news cycle" plan for attacking Obama with often-misleading ads could amount to a strategic, long-term, self-inflicted defeat. The idea was that McCain's entire political identity rested on an image of honesty, decency, and not playing petty political games. So if his campaign seemed to contradict his essential values, it could in the end hurt him more than its intended victim.
By the way: McCain didn't need Spinney to explain this principle to him. It's basically the same point McCain has passionately made in saying that a decent, democratic society committed to rule-of-law simply cannot afford to condone torture as official policy.
(Why didn't the same Swiftboat scorched-earth tactics hurt GW Bush? Well, given the extreme narrowness of the margins in 2000 and 2004, perhaps they did. But the real point is, Bush never relied on a reputation for bipartisan, above-the-fray, national-interest politics the way McCain has.)