At least they believe in recycling

AT LEAST THEY BELIEVE IN RECYCLING…. The McCain campaign has been desperate to smear Barack Obama over the last several months, but at this point, the polls still look discouraging for them. So, it appears the McCain gang has decided to start over, using old and discredited smears, and hoping people are just stupid enough not to notice.

In Thursday night’s debate, Sarah Palin said, “Now, Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is ‘air-raiding villages and killing civilians.’ And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause.”

Yesterday, with Fox News, Palin not only repeated the line, she said it literally makes Obama unfit for the presidency.

During an appearance on Fox News this Friday, Sarah Palin claimed that Barack Obama should be disqualified from serving as president because he had once proclaimed that troops in Afghanistan were “air raiding villages and killing civilians.”

If the charge seemed oddly and painfully familiar it’s because it has been levied at Obama — and subsequently dismissed — several times before during this election season.

Even by McCain campaign standards, this is just pathetic. Fifteen months ago, Obama said, “We’ve got to get the job done [in Afghanistan] and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.” At the time, a few Republicans, most notably Mitt Romney and Sean Hannity, said the comments were outrageous and offensive. Soon after, the AP published a fact-check item:

A check of the facts shows that Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents.

The U.S. and NATO say they don’t have civilian casualty figures, but The Associated Press has been keeping count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Tracking civilian deaths is a difficult task because they often occur in remote and dangerous areas that are difficult to reach and verify.

As of Aug. 1, the AP count shows that while militants killed 231 civilians in attacks in 2007, Western forces killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire that can’t be attributed to one party.

In other words, what Obama said was right. The Republicans quickly dropped the issue and moved on. That was August 2007.

Now, 15 months later, someone apparently handed Sarah Palin a notecard with a debunked attack, and she repeated it. As of this morning, it’s Drudge’s lead story, and if history is any guide, the right will decide this old and thoroughly discredited attack is suddenly important again.

Note to political world: McCain/Palin is playing you for fools. They’ve run out of new attacks, so they’re recycling old ones, cynically hoping you have very bad memories.

And the McCain campaign’s descent into clownery continues….

Update: My friend Adam emails to remind me that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, just two weeks ago, felt compelled to apologize for casualties in Afghanistan, after an airstrike killed 90 people. By Palin’s reasoning, Gates should resign because his anti-American attitudes disqualify him from being the Pentagon’s chief.

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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.