Via Andrew, this video of John McCain asking who Barack Obama is and getting the answer "terrorist!" has been bouncing around the internets:
For this entry in the annals of amateur political psychology, take a look at McCain's face after one of his supporters shouts his answer. He looks a little surprised, no? We've wondered why the Republican nominee can gave speeches, oh, like this one, that are just brimming with easily rebutted charges, or angrily claim that he has been 100 percent honest in front of editorial board. Is it possible that he simply doesn't know what his campaign is up to? The obvious and correct response is that he is in charge of his campaign, and he is responsible at the end of the day for all its actions. McCain may simply be surprised by how far he has had to go down the road of Bush in his hunt for the presidency.
But as the McCain-Palin campaign spirals ever deeper into the gutter -- someone yelled "Kill Him!", referring either to Obama or William
Ayres Ayers, at Palin rally yesterday -- take a moment to reflect on the structural factors in the conservative Republican party that essentially demand these tactics. Before this 2004, McCain was many things -- very conservative, very angry -- but he was not the type of person to attack someone's patriotism (see his very real, and very touching, rapprochement with John Kerry in the early '90).
Increasingly prescient-looking boss Mark Schmitt touched on these factors in his spring feature, "Can Identity Politics Save the Right?" But it looks like identity politics -- conservatism's only recourse in these times -- may be destroying the right instead of saving it. Some conservatives will buy this idea as well, nurturing a phoenix-like rise from the ashes creation myth for the rebirth of their movement. Tonight's debate will be a watershed: Will McCain bring these attacks to the debate, face-to-face with Obama? Can he even look him in the eye? But if McCain cannot make ground tonight, barring some major surprise, this race is all but over.
-- Tim Fernholz
P.S. See Noam Scheiber for a good run-down of tonight's options.
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