The attacks are part of a newly aggressive McCain operation whose aim is to portray the Democratic presidential candidate as a craven politician more interested in his image than in ailing soldiers, a senior McCain adviser said. They come despite repeated pledges by the Republican that he will never question his rival's patriotism.The gaffe, however, is this: McCain is not George W. Bush, and pushing a story he knows is false has begun to backfire. The WaPo has a front page story debunking the McCain spin today (the link above). The NYT has a similar critique. Josh Marshall captures it nicely:
As I alluded to at the top of this post, it is the norm that obvious campaign tactics that are treated as obvious after a campaign is over are nonetheless treated by most reporters as ambiguous or unclear during a campaign. But in this case it would be nice if that were not the case. Because here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies.Josh is a little skeptical that the MSM will criticize McCain for the internal contradiction (honorable straight-talker vs. swift-boating liar), but I'd say that horse is already half-way out of the barn. McCain has never known how to modulate his attacks, and at this level, and for this duration, he can't get away with being McNasty and a kindly old war vet simultaneously.