JOE KLEIN LAMENTS THE GOP ‘DISGRACE’…. In April, Time’s Joe Klein was still willing to give John McCain the benefit of the doubt, predicting that the Republican nominee would avoid the cheap and pathetic style of campaigning we’re seeing now. McCain, Klein said, “sees the tawdry ceremonies of politics — the spin and hucksterism — as unworthy.” Klein added that if McCain chose the low road, “McCain will have to live with the knowledge that in the most important business of his life, he chose expediency over honor. That’s probably not the way he wants to be remembered.”

That was nearly five months ago. As McCain’s campaign grew more offensive, Klein’s disappointment became more palpable. Last month, the Time columnist said “there is no excuse” for McCain’s ugly style of campaigning, other than to say it is “evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate.”

At this point, Klein just sounds disgusted with the entire Republican campaign operation.

Maybe I’m getting old, maybe it’s that I’ve seen this act so often before, maybe it’s that the people I talk to when I go out on the road really are having a harder time paying for things like health care, gasoline and college tuition, but I’m finding the Republican attempts to derail the conversation from the actual state of the country really depressing and disgraceful this year. They practice Orwellian politics of the crudest sort. They are trying to sell a big lie — that the election is about the social issues of the 1960s, or Barack Obama’s patriotism or his eloquence, or the “angry left,” when it’s really about turning toward a more moderate path after the ideological radicalism and malfeasance of the past eight years.

It gets back to an ongoing narrative of the presidential race — Republicans don’t seem to have much of a choice right now. McCain doesn’t have any real confidence in his policy agenda, or the merit of his vision for the future. So, we are, once again, stuck with the Republicans relying on cultural insecurities, doing everything possible to avoid a substantive debate.

Kevin argues that it’s not going to work. Here’s hoping he’s right.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.