This post has been updated.

Conservative provocateur James Kirchick pens a bit of nonsense in Politico today, arguing that Democrats are smearing John McCain. To do that, he has to equate lies about Obama with critical discussions of John McCain's biography.

On the smear side, you have malicious and baseless rumors about Obama's religion, past, and wife. On the other side, you have public officials asking whether or not McCain's wartime experience would help him be a better president. Scott already addressed the Wes Clark issue, but I was surprised to see Kirchick cite a Rand Beers quote from yesterday, captured in full at ABC:

“Sadly, Sen. McCain was not available during those times, and I say that with all
due respect to him," said informal Obama adviser Rand Beers. "I think that the notion that the members of the Senate who
were in the ground forces or who were ashore in Vietnam have a very different
view of Vietnam  and the cost that you described than John McCain does because
he was in isolation essentially for many of those years and did not experience
the turmoil here or the challenges that were involved for those of us who served
in Vietnam during the Vietnam war."

I was at that event and Beers was practically defending McCain to a man who was shouting about why McCain doesn't seem to understand the negative public mood about the war. Beers' reply that McCain was serving honorably in POW camp and missed out on events at home and on the ground in Vietnam was completely respectful. Calling it a smear is just wrong.

To Kirchick, anything other than hagiographic discussion of McCain's wartime career implies that he is "unhinged, mentally unstable warmonger who would deploy soldiers capriciously." None of the four examples he cites implies that McCain is unhinged or unstable. And if they do suggest that McCain would deploy soldiers capriciously, maybe that's because he's said he will. McCain's stated position is that we should maintain troops in Iraq indefinitely. He has not defined what the conditions in the country would lead to a withdrawal. He wanted to go to war against North Korea in the nineties.

Kirchick, content to speculate without evidence, wonders if these reasonable discussions of McCain's background were coordinated by the Obama campaign. I doubt it, since they haven't helped him any. But since that's the way it's done now, I'll give it a try: Looking at all the rumors being spread about Obama, we would be "foolish not to at least consider the possibility they were coordinated" by the McCain campaign. Please don't take that as a smear.

--Tim Fernholz

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