The McCain campaign may be going off a cliff. Sarah Palin hit a new low -- and that's hard for her -- when she smeared Barack Obama with his association with '60s radical Bill Ayers, by claiming that Obama sees America "as imperfect enough to work with a domestic terrorist who tried to kill his own people" -- as though Obama's concerns about American society led him to ally himself with terrorism. Break it down, folks, and that's what she's saying. Palin's got some syntax problems when she talks, so maybe she didn't mean it that way -- but I think she did. She's found slightly different ways to say the same thing two days in a row, even after multiple news organizations criticized her take on the Obama-Ayers connection.
There seems to be no bottom for the McCain campaign. The candidate himself joined his running mate in the gutter Monday, with a stream-of-consciousness rant against Obama in New Mexico:
My opponent's touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who's already authored two memoirs, he's not exactly an open book. It's as if somehow the usual rules don't apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there's always a back story with Senator Obama. All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama?
As War Room reports (with a Mark Ambinder video), a McCain fan yelled back, "Terrorist!" Should that be a surprise?
Republicans aren't even being clever or secretive about their fear and smear campaign strategy. "It's a dangerous road, but we have no choice," a senior McCain strategist told Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News in a Monday report. "If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we're going to lose."
Chances are, they're going to lose anyway. McCain is down an unbelievable 10 points in Virginia (it's the communists, of course). He's in trouble in Florida. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released late Monday afternoon, Obama had opened up a 6-point lead over McCain, but maybe more interesting, voters are happier with the way Obama has handled the economic crisis by a 9-point margin. And 59 percent of those polled said the economy was their top issue; foreign affairs came in a distant second with 16 percent.
Faced with that bad news, trust McCain-Palin to hammer away at the Bill Ayers connection, even though Ayers' terrorism was 40 years ago, when Obama was 8. Is Palin saying the Democratic nominee was a member of WeatherKids? No, they're just trying to smear Obama with the accident of living in the same neighborhood with a guy who, like it or not, is a fairly mainstream figure in liberal Chicago school reform circles. He owes his political rehabilitation to his family background -- his father, Thomas, was a powerful utility executive with ties to the Daley family. Republicans should understand that kind of thing. And according to Sarah Palin, via Bill Kristol's New York Times column today, they may bring back the Jeremiah Wright smears as well.
Obama is fighting back with some old news for McCain: His involvement as one of the "Keating Five" in the savings and loan deregulation scandal of the late 1980s. The campaign released this 13-minute video, "Keating Economics," laying out McCain's role in deflecting government pressure on campaign contributor Charles Keating. The congressional investigation into the actions of the Keating Five found no evidence of illegal wrongdoing, but criticized McCain for "exercising poor judgment." At the time, McCain got political credit for admitting what he did was wrong, but now his campaign is calling the investigation "a political smear." What won't they change their tune on, now that the political chips are down?
I'll be on CNN's "Larry King Live" tonight at 6 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. EDT discussing the presidential campaign.