When Karl Rove is saying your political ads have gone too far, you know you must be doing something dishonest.
The former Bush chief strategist, appearing on Fox News Sunday, said that John McCain had stretched the truth in his recent round of attacks against Barack Obama, in the process opening up the Arizonan to a round of effective counter-attacks.
"McCain has gone in his ads one step too far, and sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent-truth test," said Rove. "Both campaigns ought to be careful about... there ought to be an adult who says: 'Do we really need to go that far in this ad? Don't we make our point and get broader acceptance and deny the opposition an opportunity to attack us if we don't include that one little last tweak in the ad?'"
McCain has received a heaping dose of criticism late this week for launching a series of advertisements that could be categorized as dishonest if not downright lies. The Obama camp, in a memo to reporters Sunday morning -- entitled a "Dishonorable, Dishonest Campaign" -- highlighted a number of these pieces. Joe Klein, of Time magazine called one spot the "sleaziest" he had ever seen. Paul Krugman of the New York Times, defined the episode as a "blizzard of lies." On Sunday, the St. Petersburg Times, ran an editorial entitled: "Campaign Of Lies Disgraces McCain," while the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman, wrote that "to McCain the truth is expendable."
That Rove would acknowledge truth in these complaints is somewhat remarkable. The man known as Bush's brain made a reputation of slinging mud at the opposition and waiting for it to stick.
But it should be noted, Rove's complaints with McCain's strategy was not that it had elicited the condemnation of groups like politifact or factcheck.org -- "You can't trust the fact check organization in all respect," he said. "They are human beings and individuals; they have got their own biases in there." Rather, he argued that by exaggerating so wildly, the Republican presidential nominee had opened himself up to political attacks.
"They don't need to attack each other in this way," he said. "They have legitimate points to make about each other."
UPDATE: Sure enough, the Obama campaign weighs in... gleefully.
"In case anyone was still wondering whether John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest campaign in history, today Karl Rove - the man who held the previous record - said McCain's ads have gone too far," said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor.