Earlier today, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported that Carol Fowler, the chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, commented that John McCain had picked a running mate "whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion."
McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, who is pro-life, recently gave birth to her fifth child, Trig, who has Down Syndrome. Before she joined the Republican ticket, Palin was supported by social conservatives -- a portion of his base McCain had real trouble with -- in large part because of her decision not to terminate her pregnancy after the test results came back.
The McCain campaign, which has been all over this sort of thing this week, hastily organized a "Palin Truth Squad" conference call featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
Senator Graham expressed his shock -- shock! -- at "yet another personal smear on Governor Sarah Palin" coming from Carol Fowler, who he said is a personal acquaintance of his. He stressed that it was "not characteristic [for Fowler] to say something this out of bounds" and suggested "it shows that our Democratic colleagues are in a meltdown mode."
"Only very blinded, partisan people," Graham claimed, could treat Palin and her record as Fowler and other (noticeably unnamed) Democrats are. He called on Barack Obama to reject the comment and later added, "if a Republican had said that about a Democrat, it would be the firestorm of the century."
And, of course, for appearances' sake, it's always nice to have a woman around if you're going to complain about supposed sexism. Blackburn was there to fill that role; she said this comment represented "a pattern" of sexist comments made by Democrats during the 2008 campaign season, citing the time Obama called a female reporter "sweetie." Further evidence of sexism, she said, could be found in Obama's choice of running mate. Blackburn also referenced what she called "the lipstick comment." That kind of behavior, she said, "show[s] so much disrespect to all women."
But the reporters on the call seemed uninterested in the Truth Squad's crusade against sexism. They were more interested in factual holes in the McCain campaign's ads. One asked a question about how the McCain campaign could play victim and at the same time launch attacks that falsely accuse Obama of supporting comprehensive sex-education for kindergarteners. Another asked why the McCain campaign continued to insist that fighting against the Bridge to Nowhere was part of Palin's record of reform. Graham insisted that "Governor Palin has walked the walk" when it comes to reform. And then, illustrating exactly why the McCain camp relishes these kinds of opportunities, Graham returned to Fowler, saying, "This effort to demean [Governor Palin] or wipe out her accomplishments because she disagrees with the NARAL crowd about one issue is not going to succeed."
Hari Sevugan, an Obama spokesman, has responded to Fowler's comment, saying, "Carol Fowler was speaking for herself. Her comments do not reflect our views in any way."
Update: Fowler has now apologized for her remarks. Her statement reads:
I personally admire and respect the difficult choices that women make everyday, and I apologize to anyone who finds my comment offensive. I clumsily was making a point about people in South Carolina who may vote based on a single issue. Whether it’s the environment, the economy, the war or a woman’s right to choose, there are people who will cast their vote based on a single issue. That was the only point I was attempting to make.