Surrogates to Barack Obama derided, on Tuesday, remarks from a top aide to the McCain campaign claiming that a terrorist attack would benefit his candidate. But they would not go so far, as others have, in calling for Black's firing.
"I don't think it is up to us to suggest how Sen. McCain staffs his campaign," said 9/11 Commission Member Richard Ben-Veniste. "I think the remarks were so out of place that they call for some recalibration in the thinking and perhaps in a greater adherence to principle here in staying away from the politics of fear. I suggest it would be a good idea to caution those whose candid thoughts have created this turmoil for Senator McCain."
On Monday, McCain's chief adviser, Charlie Black, stirred the political pot by claiming that, electorally, it would be a "big advantage" for his boss if a terrorist attack were to happen between now and the election.
Reaction was swift, with McCain distancing himself from the remarks and the Obama campaign ripping them as a "disgrace." Then, last night, former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke raised the bar, insisting that "Charlie Black ought to be gone tomorrow morning."
Aides to Obama wouldn't take that leap. Instead, on a conference call with reporters, they categorized Black's statement as the political bluster, fear tactics, and a distraction from the issues. On one occasion they were pressed to say whether they thought Black's words could or should be attributed to McCain.
The question of, to whom to ascribe Mr. Black's comments is an academic one," said aide Dennis McDonough.
Asked by Time Magazine's Jay Carney whether they believed Black was, in essence wishing a terrorist attack on the United States, McDonough again stuck to the script:
"It appears that Mr. Black views terror through a political lens, that's not our view. Our view is that terror is a fundamental security challenge."