More Gwen Ifill bashing?

MORE GWEN IFILL BASHING?…. Following up on an item from yesterday, the right’s manufactured outrage about PBS’s Gwen Ifill moderating tonight’s vice presidential debate was not just a one-day story.

For a while, it looked as if the McCain campaign wasn’t going to pursue this, leaving the far-right blogs to rant and rave on their own. McCain said he respects Ifill and is perfectly comfortable with her moderating the debate, and Sarah Palin made a similar comment. That, at least in theory, should have been that.

But today, the McCain campaign has decided this nonsense might have an upside after all.

[McCain] seemed more critical of debate moderator Gwen Ifill, who has come under criticism because she is writing a book featuring Obama. Asked on Fox News Channel whether it would work to Palin’s advantage because Ifill will be under scrutiny for any bias, McCain answered, “Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama. Let’s face it. But I have to have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is.”

“Life isn’t fair, as I mentioned earlier in the program,” said McCain, who is scheduled to hold a rally later today in Denver.

Yesterday, he didn’t have any problem with Ifill. Today, her role in the debate is evidence of life not being fair. Please.

Similarly, the far-right blogs are stoking the fires again. RedState, a prominent conservative site, sent an email to supporters this morning, insisting that Ifill failed to “disclose” her book before debate negotiations. RedState’s Erick Erickson urged activists to contact the CEO of PBS.

It’s an odd argument, especially since Ifill announced her book two weeks before the McCain campaign agreed to have her moderate.

All of this seems a bit silly. If McCain really had a problem with Ifill’s professionalism, he’d ask that she be replaced. If RedState really wanted Ifill replaced, it would direct its attention at the Commission on Presidential Debates, not PBS.

It seems the real goal here is to make the post-debate spin easier by raising doubts about the moderator. Republicans want to “work the ref,” so Ifill will be reluctant to ask Palin tough questions, and want a pre-emptive excuse in case Palin performs poorly.

Don’t be fooled by crocodile tears.

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Steve Benen

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.