McCain’s robocall problem

MCCAIN’S ROBOCALL PROBLEM…. It probably struck John McCain as a good idea. He’d hire the same Republican hatchet men who smeared him eight years ago, and hire the same Republican firm who viciously attacked him, and give them lots of money to destroy Barack Obama with indefensible robocalls — the political coward’s weapon of choice.

He probably didn’t expect significant pushback, but that’s what he’s getting. Colin Powell cited the robocalls this morning as part of his denunciation of the McCain campaign. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine denounced McCain’s robocalls on Friday, and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota followed suit on Saturday.

The developments have not gone unnoticed by major news outlets. The New York Times ran an unflattering item on McCain’s tactics, as did the Washington Post. Time’s Karen Tumulty called McCain’s robocall strategy “as ridiculous as it is cowardly.” Joe Klein added, “Real men don’t hide behind robocalls. It is nowhere near honorable.”

It is against this backdrop that McCain appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where Chris Wallace pointed out McCain’s previous denunciations of robocalls, and asked if the Republican is now prepared to stop the smear campaign. McCain responded, “Of course not.”

McCain said his robo-slime was highlighting “a legitimate issue,” which is the question of whether Obama is “being truthful with the American people,” a clear reference to his robo-call attacking Obama’s association with William Ayers.

Actually, this is false. McCain’s robo-call about Obama and Ayers says absolutely nothing about whether Obama is telling the truth about his relationship with the former Weatherman. If you don’t believe me, you can listen to the full call right here.

McCain’s Ayers robo-slime is not about Obama’s honesty at all. Rather, it’s all about Ayers’ domestic terrorism, and it’s all about the false insinuation that Obama has “worked closely” with Ayers in his capacity as a terrorist and killer of Americans.

We’re now at the point where John McCain has been reduced to distorting his own distortions — he’s not only running a robo-slime campaign that is totally at odds with his previously claimed principles, but he’s now lying about it, too.

If McCain still has the capacity to feel shame, now would be a very good time for it.

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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.