IN THE TANK…. John McCain and Sarah Palin have decided they no longer want to talk to campaign reporters, so yesterday’s conference call with Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis — the top two officials in the Republican campaign — was a chance for the media to hear what’s on the McCain campaign’s mind at this phase of the race, and clear the air about the increasingly obvious affinity the campaign has for lying.

The Politico’s Ben Smith explained last night that it didn’t go well. Apparently, he wasn’t supposed to notice.

Sen. John McCain’s top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called “liars.” They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama’s record.

But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.

The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt’s charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they seemed unnecessary.

It’s been a consistent pattern with the McCain campaign — these guys lie, even when the truth is just as good. In this case, Schmidt and Davis took relatively legitimate areas of inquiry — the Biden family’s ties to the credit card industry; Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, etc. — and twisted already-embarrassing truths into new and creative lies. Part of the point of the call was to push back against charges that the McCain campaign is lying, and during the call, the McCain campaign kept lying.

When Smith asked about the conference call’s errors, McCain campaign spokesperson told him, “You are in the tank.”

Perfect. The McCain campaign worldview summarized in just five words — if you care about reality, you’re necessarily biased. You are either with McCain or against him, and if you notice McCain’s campaign straying from the truth, you’re obviously the enemy.

As Marc Ambinder put it, “As in — no, we don’t have to justify what we say, and the fact that you would question our assertions is proof-positive that you’ve absorbed the Obama campaign’s worldview. Not only is that Addington-esque in its logic — the spokesperson is PAID by one tank, so how can he possibly make that accusation credibly — it’s also immature (like throwing reporters off planes) and counterproductive.”

Of course, if you agree with any of this, you must be in the tank, too.

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.