The state of the McCain campaign is drawing fire from its own ostensible allies. At the head of the line of Republicans looking to be the first to flick dirt on McCain's grave is Bill Kristol, who says in today's New York Times, that if "the race continues over the next three weeks to be a conventional one, McCain is doomed." Since that's coming from a guy who, through his own bad advice, has contributed mightily to the grave McCain is measuring, it makes sense that he be given the first shovel of dirt.
But didn't Kristol get the message? Today, the key line of John McCain's rebooted stump speech is directed at his rival, Barack Obama, and it goes a little something like, "We have him right where we want him." That was the plan, all along, you see! Be down double digits in the polls, possessed of the necessity of campaigning in West Virginia, and in need of tempering your supporters' passions because they have suddenly veered wildly in the direction of psychosis. I love it when a plan comes together, even if that plan is only indicative of the fact that McCain's moved to the "denial" stage of grief. Brace yourself, because anger and depression are still to come!
Amid this turmoil, McCain's attempts to relaunch his campaign have encountered a new obstacle: his fellow Republicans, who, like Kristol, are prepping themselves for an old-fashioned circular firing squad. Over the weekend, the New York Times noted that party leaders "were worried Mr. McCain was heading for defeat unless he brought stability to his presidential candidacy and settled on a clear message" for his campaign. And in today's edition of The Hill, a chorus of disapproval weighs in on McCain's muffed punt of the Paulson bailout package.
But leading that particular pack of wolves is Kristol, who says that the "McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional. Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic."
Of course, a smart observer might have suggested that the incompetence-slash-incoherence was extant at the moment McCain selected Sarah Palin (inexperienced, embroiled in abuse-of-power scandal, earmark lover) as his running mate, and the toxicity was apparent after a week of all-Ayers-all-the-time campaigning. And we'd remind you that both the Palin selection and the Ayers-bashing had few supporters as frenzied as Kristol. But hey! If the Times was interested in good sense or accountability or even intellectual consistency from their columnists, they wouldn't have hired Kristol in the first place.
Naturally, McCain's responded through Nancy Pfotenhauer, who's accused Kristol of "buying into the Obama campaign's party line." These sentiments were similarly voiced by the ubiquitous Tucker Bounds later in the day:
So what's the new party line from John McCain? In the first place, McCain is now saying, "What America needs in this hour is a fighter." Doesn't that mess up Sarah Palin's constant contention that McCain being "the only man in the race who has ever really fought for you" was something that she had to say because McCain was too modest to admit it? More to the point, doesn't this mess up the Sarah Palin Stump Speech Drinking Game? Ever since she dropped the "I sold it on eBay" line I've been practically teetotaling!
But the crux of McCain's case seems to be this line:
I come from a long line of McCains who believed that to love America is to fight for her.
So there you have it! Vote for McCain! He's the McCainiest!