ANGER WATCH…. The new line in Republican circles is that there’s just as much over-the-top rage among Obama supporters as McCain supporters. The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes reports today:

This morning at a McCain rally here, a bearded young man in the crowd responded to a McCain critique of Barack Obama by shouting: “You’re a liar, John!” He then hoisted a young woman with an antiwar poster onto his shoulders and began yelling antiwar gibberish as McCain tried to continue his speech. When McCain supporters ripped up the woman’s sign, she unfolded another one and the spectacle continued.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. Sullivan notes that there a difference between calling a candidate a “liar” and using words like “terrorist,” “treason,” and “kill him.”

But Christopher Orr raises an even more compelling point: “[W]hat struck me was the way Hayes obliviously suggests that the protester’s perseverance after McCain supporters tore up her sign proved how angry she was.”

I had the same reaction. If the knock on McCain supporters is that they’re too often unhinged, doesn’t tearing up a poster held by a young woman offer evidence that the criticism is accurate?

Nevertheless, Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for the McCain campaign, took a similar line on NPR this morning, insisting, without a hint of jest, that McCain has run “a positive campaign” and that enraged rhetoric is just as common at Obama rallies as McCain rallies. NPR allowed the claim to go unchallenged.

When Salon inquired about any specific examples to bolster Schmidt’s claim, the McCain campaign ignored the inquiry.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.