First: the McCain triple "gaffe" on Iraq and al Qaeda
Second: the apology
Third: Conservative bloggers and pundits claim he was right the first time.
What the x$&? Lack of coordination? Neo-con push back on McCain? Possibly, but it stinks of something far more sinister.
Here's the thing: conservatives are scared, and they're using the media, the blogs and their talking heads to shore up their candidate on the one issue they thought they could win: the triangulation of Iraq, Iran, and terrorism.
They've already lost 70% of the American public on Iraq and therefore can't win with the "father of the Surge" argument alone. Fear mongering on Iran and terrorism is still very much in play, however. They get traction when they try to connect the three, but still haven't figured out how to do it without running into limitations like "the truth" and "facts".
McCain may have committed all of these "gaffes" by accident, but it spoke to his larger desire to triangulate these issues. His apology on the specific mention scared conservatives, who know that constructing a "grey area" where none exists is their only prayer at winning this election.
I witnessed first hand the conservative fear on Iraq and McCain in a call we hosted today with Jon Soltz from VoteVets.org, Brian Katulis from Center for American Progress Action Fund and Ilan Goldenberg of the National Security Network discussing McCain's remarks on Iraq.
When we switched to Q&A, it got ugly. Lisa Meckler from the Wall Street Journal and Michael Goldfarb from the Weekly Standard went after these experts essentially asking if McCain was, in fact, right the first time. Meckler and Goldfarb asked questions straight out of the conservative spin machine, attempting to catch these experts in far-flug and desperate connections that would verify McCain's original claims. You can listen to the call here.
Going forward, we can expect much more where this comes from, as conservatives struggle to construct realities that might help them win.