DOWD SAYS MCCAIN ‘PUT THE COUNTRY AT RISK’…. Matthew Dowd was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, so it came as something of a surprise to see him eviscerate John McCain today a panel at the TimeWarner summit.

“They didn’t let John McCain pick the person he wanted to pick as VP,” Dowd declared during the Time Warner Summit panel. “When Sarah Palin got picked instead of Joe Lieberman, which I fundamentally believed would have given John McCain the best opportunity in this race… as soon as he picked Palin, that whole ready versus not ready argument was not credible.”

Saying that Palin was a “net negative” on the ticket, he went on: “[McCain] knows, in his gut, that he put somebody unqualified on the ballot. He knows that in his gut, and when this race is over that is something he will have to live with… He put somebody unqualified on that ballot and he put the country at risk, he knows that.”

It’s far too soon to say the decision to add Palin to the ticket was the day that sealed McCain’s defeat. There are still three weeks left, and a lot can happen.

But it is safe to say the day McCain picked Palin was the day the political establishment realized McCain isn’t the man they thought he was. If he’s willing to put Palin one 72-year-old heartbeat from the presidency, then he’s willing to put country second.

Or, as Dowd put it, McCain “put the country at risk.” It’s hard to forgive him for that.

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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.