With the assistance of a press corps willing to play along, the McCain campaign scored a hit Monday, feigning outrage and manufacturing a controversy out of Wesley Clark's questions on John McCain's presidential qualifications. It involved twisting the words of a four-star general a bit, and a pliant press corps willing to redefine the word "attack," but the McCain/GOP spin machine was in high dudgeon and it got precisely the result it was looking for.
But sometimes, once a campaign has had some success with a given stunt, it gets greedy and returns to the same stunt, hoping for another cheap score. This is just such an occasion.
Monday night, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was on MSNBC and was asked about the right's flap over Clark. Webb thought this was much ado about nothing, suggested that McCain "calm down" and said it's time to "get the politics out of the military."
And in response, the McCain campaign is, once again, outraged by this "attack" on McCain. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told Greg Sargent:
If you didn't think this was a coordinated attack on John McCain's credentials before, it's clear now that it is. Barack Obama's surrogates are telling the McCain campaign to "calm down" about attacks on his military record? Seriously? Now somehow Wes Clark's attacks are John McCain's fault? It's absurd. If Barack Obama can't control his own surrogate operation, how can he be trusted to run the country?
I find it hard to imagine that Rogers even believes this nonsense himself. Not only did Clark not coordinate with Obama -- the most controversial remark in Clark's interview originated with Bob Schieffer, not the Obama campaign -- but Webb didn't attack McCain.
The whole response comes across as whining, as if the Big Bad Democrats aren't being nice enough. Those mean Dems questioned McCain's qualifications! And they believe McCain shouldn't get hysterical over the subject! Can you imagine?
Indeed, before the McCain camp had a fit over Webb's mild remarks, it sent out a press release, complaining about Clark for a third consecutive day.
Note to the McCain camp: You scored a cheap goal. Be happy and move on. The whining is unbecoming.