THE ‘ASSERTIVE’ CAMPAIGN…. When these manufactured campaign controversies come up, there’s a fascinating dynamic in which the various actors play their roles. When it comes to the “lipstick” stupidity, for example, McCain’s job is to push the story, Obama’s job is to dismiss it, and the media’s job is to pretend it’s worth talking about. All three know exactly how mind-numbingly foolish this is.

So, why would news outlets play along? MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough accidentally said what he was actually thinking yesterday morning while talking to Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: Now, it’ll die, as we said, it’ll jump the shark. Two days ago, no, we’re all talking about — you’re waving the tabloids around, come on. Two days from now — I want to ask you, what will we talk about two days from now?

SCARBOROUGH: Whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about, because the McCain campaign is assertive.

I suppose the most obvious question that comes to mind is why the Obama campaign isn’t equally assertive. But the truth is, it’s quite assertive. Like D-Day, I’ve seen plenty of the campaign’s blast faxes, emails, “In Case You Missed It” memos, etc. Obama’s team is pushing plenty newsworthy stories at media personalities on a nearly constant basis.

But news outlets seem kind of picky about what kind of nonsense goes into heavy rotation. As far as I can tell, the story has to a) have video; b) be exceedingly simple and easy to summarize in a few seconds; and c) be good for John McCain.

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.