KRISTOL HAS A PLAN…. Bill Kristol believes his long-time friend, John McCain, is having some trouble, but he devotes his New York Times column today to explaining that McCain still “has a chance” to “surge to victory.” In fact, Kristol has a two-pronged approach to helping the Republican ticket get on track.

Step One involves Sarah Palin.

…McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.

I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.

Yes, right, of course — Palin has struggled badly as a candidate, but the blame should be directed at “former Bush aides” who’ve been stuck in a “defensive crouch.” Silly me, I thought Palin’s problems had more to do with her breathtaking dishonesty, her ongoing ethics scandal, and her inability to answer unscripted questions.

And with her favorability ratings already falling fast, the notion of “liberating” Palin to begin a series of relentless attacks seems misguided. As Joe Klein noted, “I’d wonder about the shelf-life of Palin’s efficacy as an attack dog, especially now that the American people have come to see her as the incredible — as in not credible — vice presidential choice that she is.”

Step Two involves Jeremiah Wright.

[T]he fact is the only Democrats to win the presidency in the past 40 years — Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — distanced themselves from liberal orthodoxy. Obama is, by contrast, a garden-variety liberal. He also has radical associates in his past.

The most famous of these is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright….

Brilliant. In the midst of a Wall Street crisis, and with McCain getting hammered for ignoring the middle class, Kristol wants McCain to talk about the former pastor at Obama’s former church. Yeah, that will win voters over.

If Democrats are very lucky, McCain will take Kristol’s advice.

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.