The McCain campaign blasted back against a story in today's Washington Post reporting that an al-Qaeda official in a "commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah," had called for the support of the Arizona Republican.
In doing so, foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann attacked everything from the paper ("I use journalism in quotations marks when referring to this story"), to the controversial figures who have said nice things about Barack Obama, to a conference call questioner who asked him to reevaluate the history of the Iraq War.
The most interesting line, however, came from former CIA Director Jim Woosley, who sought to frame the al-Qaeda blog posting as some sort of attempt at reverse political psychology
"If one takes one individual Islamist blogger from one terrorist Islamist blog who has come up with this statement that it would be good to have McCain in the White House, I think one has to consider the motives," he said. "This individual knows that the endorsement of people like him is a kiss of death, figuratively and literally. So it seems to be that it is pretty clear by making this statement it would be a good thing for McCain to be president. He wants to damage McCain. He's not speaking from his heart."
How Woosley interpreted the musings of an al Qaeda blogger to be a foray into electoral strategy remains unclear. So is the idea that this endorsement shouldn't be considered honest but the "endorsement" of Obama by members of Hammas or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which Scheunemann evoked repeatedly, somehow should be regarded as sincere.
But it is important to recall that in the 2004 election, Republican officials were quick to interpret a late-in-the-election tape from Osama bin Laden as a surefire endorsement of John Kerry's candidacy. Even Kerry himself said the issue cost him the election.
Now, it appears, the standards are different, with al-Qaeda well-versed in electoral trickery and eagerly pushing a candidate that they think would, in the end, most harm its cause.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent at TPM offers an interesting reminder concerning this topic:
When discussing this topic, it's always useful to recall that journalist Ron Suskind reported that CIA analysts concluded that Bin Laden had released a tape of himself on the eve of the 2004 election in order to help Bush stay in power, partly because his presidency made such a handy recruiting tool.