10/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Derangement Syndrome

Scanning various blogs today, I'm amazed at the seething outrage at the McCain campaign's plethora of dishonest tactics, from Sarah Palin's lie about rejecting the Bridge to Nowhere to the ad charging Obama with promoting sex. Josh Marshall, who normally reads political events pretty coolly, has joined Andrew Sullivan in all-out high-dudgeon mode:

[McCain and Palin have] both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses. If Democrats can say at the end of this campaign that they made clear exactly how and why these two are unfit for high office they can be satisfied they served their country.

Rather, I'm amazed not at the outrage itself so much as the fact that it seems to have obliterated all sense of proportion. Call it McCain-Palin Derangement Syndrome. Step back a moment: McCain is running for president. Both his place in history and the future of the country are on the line. In the words of George H.W. Bush, he's going to do "what it takes" to become president. John McCain may have once had a reputation as a straight-talking, unconventional politician, and maybe that McCain could have made a go of it -- we'll never know. But now, for obviously well-thought-out strategic reasons, we've got a different McCain.

Certainly, McCain has made moral compromises here, will doubtless make more, and that will undermine if not destroy his stated quest to heal the divisions in Washington. This augers poorly for a McCain presidency, especially following on eight years of George W. Bush.

But do dishonest-but-effective campaign tactics really render McCain "unfit to lead"? No. Voters obviously don't think it disqualifies him either, at least not in great numbers. Maybe they see the lies, but they also see the aggression. This is a guy who really, really wants to win -- and that counts for a lot in a presidential campaign. If McCain wins, most people will quickly forget the campaign's lies, distortions and negative ads, and his fitness will ultimately be tested by what he does in office.

Meanwhile, the howls over McCain's lost "honor" and the appeals to America's sense of fair play are, frankly, ridiculous. The man fights dirty. If you don't like it, find a way fight back.