DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE…. As a rule, there’s no point in going after every inane McCain campaign web ad — there’s too many of them, and they’re generally not worth the bother — but as Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld noted, the new one is “so comically misleading that it really is a must-see.”

It’s too ridiculous to post the video, but the “ad” responds to the heat McCain took for insisting that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong,” just as the Wall Street crisis was underway. Here’s the script:

Voiceover: Who’s Barack Obama? First, Obama attacked McCain.

Then said: “We’ve got the long term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows.”

Voiceover: Strong fundamentals? Is Obama saying McCain’s right? Or is Obama saying his own attacks are shameless? Either way, Obama’s a hypocrite.

Actually, he’s not. The “ad” quotes Obama saying, “We’ve got the long term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows.” But the McCain campaign conveniently shaved off all of the context that changes — indeed, reverses — the meaning of the quote. Here’s what Obama actually said:

“[We need] a plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits. For those Americans who have lost their jobs and have been working hard to find a new one, but haven’t found one yet. That’s part of the change we need. And then after this immediate problem, we’ve got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows. Change means tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses that deserve it. As President I am going to eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups.”

Obama was talking about the “long-term fundamentals” as part of his economic plan, not of today’s economy. Either McCain campaign officials have the listening comprehension skills of a toddler, or they’re lying, again, to the public, and cynically counting on voters being too stupid to see through their nonsense.

Let’s also not lose sight of the big picture. When candidates on the Republican ticket tell voters something provocative, it doesn’t count because it’s “gotcha journalism.” When candidates on the Democratic ticket say something unremarkable, but it’s wrenched from context to change its meaning, it’s legitimate public discourse.

I suppose it’s possible for the McCain campaign to be more pathetic, but it’s hard to see how.

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.