Last Saturday, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign announced a new strategy of diversion. “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose,” one top aide said.
Since then, the campaign has accused Barack Obama of such things as “palling around with terrorists” — one of many references to former radical William Ayers. As a result, McCain-Palin campaign rallies have become “increasingly hostile” and filled with “rage.” One supporter referred to Obama as a “terrorist,” while another “wore a T-shirt depicting…Obama wearing a devil mask.”
But some in the media just can’t accept that McCain is in any way responsible, suggesting that it is his campaign aides, not McCain himself, that is orchestrating the attacks and that McCain simply has no choice but to play along:
— Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza: McCain has NEVER [emp. in original] been particularly comfortable carrying harshly negative, personal messages in campaigns — always viewing himself as above that sort of lowest common denominator politics. His refusal to bring up Ayers last night is reflective of his distaste for the knife-fight aspects of politics.
— CBS News’s Bob Schieffer: I’d like to think that maybe it’s not McCain himself, but some of those around him.
— Washington Post’s Ben Pershing: Everyone was waiting for McCain to bring up Ayers at the last debate, and he didn’t do it. […] But McCain is in trouble now and he may just decide to go for broke in the third debate. I think he’d still prefer not to do it himself, but he may not have a choice.
It is true that McCain did not bring up Obama’s ties to Ayers during the last debate but he has on a number of occasions since. “I don’t care about two washed-up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America,” McCain said just yesterday. “But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him and whether he’s being truthful and candid about it.”
But the media would do a disservice if they separate McCain from his campaign’s actions, as Media Matters’ Jamison Foser has noted:
Beltway journalists — so long in love with John McCain — seem to have trouble accepting this, but John McCain owns his campaign. He’s responsible for it. Its actions are his actions. It is him. You can like it, dislike it, whatever. But it’s his campaign. Journalists and pundits shouldn’t give him credit for leaving the extra-nasty lines to his minions.