Should Cindy McCain be fair game?

SHOULD CINDY MCCAIN BE FAIR GAME?…. Cindy McCain told reporters earlier this week that she believes Barack Obama has “waged the dirtiest campaign in American history.” I didn’t see video of the comment, but as I understand it, the wife of the Republican nominee managed to say this with a straight face.

Yesterday, Cindy McCain waded deeper into gutter, lashing out at Obama for opposing a war spending bill last year.

“The day that Senator Obama cast a vote not to fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body, let me tell you,” she told a Pennsylvania crowd before introducing her husband and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin.

“I would suggest Senator Obama change shoes with me for just one day. I suggest he take a day and go watch our men and women deploying,” she also said, to boisterous cheers from the campaign.

Now, I have no idea whether Mrs. McCain knows better or not, but her sleazy attack has already been debunked. Indeed, according to this argument, John McCain also voted to cut off funding for our troops in the midst of a war. That’s an inescapable conclusion — McCain supported troop funding when he liked the conditions of the spending bill, and opposed troop funding when he didn’t. As it happens, Obama did the exact same thing, only in support of different conditions.

Indeed, as Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld, the logical conclusion of Cindy McCain’s argument is that her husband “voted to defund his own son” during his service in Iraq.

Mrs. McCain, like her husband, is counting on voters not knowing the difference between misleading smears and the facts. It’s been the basis for most of the McCain campaign rhetoric all year — treat voters like idiots, and pray they hear the attack without hearing the truth.

But I have a tangential question: does this mean Cindy McCain is fair game for criticism? For the most part, candidates’ spouses are supposed to off limits from political attacks. But this week Cindy McCain seems intent on entering the fray, and spreading some pretty sleazy and shameful lies.

So, does this put Mrs. McCain’s controversies on the table? If she’s going to be a partisan hack, lying to voters, should she be subject to pushback, just like other partisan hacks?

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

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.