ALL QUESTIONS ARE ‘GOTCHA’ QUESTIONS…. Campaigning in Philadelphia on Saturday night, Sarah Palin fielded a few questions from local voters. A grad student asked Palin if she believed U.S. forces should be prepared to cross the Afghan border into Pakistan, and Palin responded, “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.”

That, of course, is Barack Obama’s position, which John McCain has repeatedly denounced. It even garnered a stern lecture at Friday’s debate.

On Sunday, McCain said Palin’s answer didn’t count because it wasn’t “a definitive policy statement.” Last night, McCain and Palin sat down together with CBS’s Katie Couric — yes, again — and came up with a new excuse.

“[L]ook, I understand this day and age ‘gotcha’ journalism,” McCain said. “Is that a pizza place? In a conversation with someone who you didn’t hear — the question very well, you don’t know the context of the conversation. Grab a phrase. Governor Palin and agree that you don’t announce that you’re going to attack another country.”

When Couric asked if Palin was sorry she had made the statement, McCain again jumped in before Palin could answer. “Wait a minute,” he said. “Before you say, ‘is she sorry she said it,’ this was a ‘gotcha’ sound bite that, look, no, she was in a conversation with a group of people and talking back and forth. And, I’ll let Governor Palin speak for herself.”

Palin added, “In the context, this was a voter, a constituent, hollering out a question from across an area asking, ‘What are you gonna do about Pakistan? You better have an answer to Pakistan.’ I said we’re gonna do what we have to do to protect the United States of America.” She added, “That this is all about ‘gotcha’ journalism.”

All of this is completely absurd. First, Palin did more than just recommit to protecting the country — she specifically said we should “absolutely” cross the border to stop terrorists from moving into Pakistan.

Second, what are these bizarre rules McCain is coming up with? When a voter asks a topical, pertinent question, it’s “gotcha journalism.” When a candidate gives an answer while talking “back and forth” with a “group of people,” it doesn’t count.

This is insane. Palin isn’t a victim here — a voter asked a question, and she answered it. Palin, in other words, said something in public and the media reported it. Indeed, she said something important about a pressing national security issue, so the media is supposed to report it.

The Republican ticket is actually getting worse. I didn’t think that was possible.

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.