Crossing The Line?
“I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war,” McCain said, referencing a tag line he used to defend his support for the troop surge in Iraq. “It seems to me that Sen. Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”
This of course is shameful rhetoric, but one has to wonder if McCain understands that this kind of talk from a presidential candidate is pretty unprecedented:
UPDATE: Various readers remind me that harsh foreign policy charges have been part of American politics as long as there’s been American politics, though I still don’t have a charge that direct from the nominee’s mouth.
Nixon, for instance, suggested McGovern advocated “surrender,” as did his surrogates.
And Roosevelt’s 1940 running mate, Henry Wallace, produced this Times lede (which puts a bit of the contemporary outrage cycle in perspective):
“PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 25–Charging that Nazi agents had been ordered to spend money and effort to accomplish the defeat of President Roosevelt next month, Henry A. Wallace asserted at a campaign rally tonight that a Republican victory was a necessity for the plans of Adolf Hitler and his fellow-dictators.”
Ben points out that little of this has come out of the candidates’ mouths themselves, and the recoil from certain media types is palpable:
This is the ninth presidential campaign I’ve covered. I can’t remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.
Joe Klein then went on AC360 and repeated the same thing; Countdown blasted McCain for this as well. This is to say nothing of the other breaking news on Coundown that McCain completely mischaracterized (with an assist from CBS) the role of the surge in reducing violence in Iraq. McCain is treading on dangerous ground here. In his anger about the coverage Obama is receiving (which he himself precipitated by taunting Obama on his lack of foreign trips repeatedly), he is coming very close to a full fledged blow-up which could kill his campaign. It may, in fact, have just happened.