06/21/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain's Confusion Has Nothing to do With His Age

I can appreciate the fact that the McCain campaign and Republicans in general are a little touchy about the senator's age -- running to be the oldest president in U.S. history will do that -- but that's no reason to characterize every critical adjective in the language as some kind of slight about McCain's septuagenarian status.

Poll after poll shows that more voters trust Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on matters of national security than they do Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. Hoping to bridge that chasm, the Obama campaign and Democrats harped on comments McCain made on the Today show this morning, repeatedly calling the 71-year-old presumptive GOP presidential nominee "confused," seeming to feed into concerns voters might have about the Arizonan's age.

After McCain said this week that it's "not too important" when U.S. troops come home from Iraq, Obama aide Susan Rice said on a conference call that McCain's comments reveal a "real confusion and lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq" and the larger region. She added that McCain's series of errors of fact and judgment are "reflective of a pattern of lack of understanding and lack of strategic depth."

Reporters, apparently having internalized McCain's talking points, asked Rice if she was attacking McCain's age by calling him "confused." She responded, "[W]hat I meant by that is very simple -- on critical, factual questions that are fundamental to understanding what's going on in Iraq and the region, Sen. McCain has gotten it wrong. And not just once but repeatedly."

This comes a month after Obama, responding to an ugly attack by McCain about Hamas, told CNN, "[F]or him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination." McCain, Lieberman, and their GOP allies said this was a shot at McCain's age.

This is all terribly silly. Every criticism is not a veiled reference to McCain turning 72. "Losing his bearings" has nothing to do with age -- it refers to someone who has lost their way, moving in the wrong direction. Likewise, people of all ages get "confused." It's not a slur, it's a description.

Whether he's 72 or 22 is irrelevant -- when it comes to the basics in Iraq, the list of McCain's incoherent insights is long and getting longer.

Why we're not supposed to mention this is a mystery. I guess I'm confused.