AL QAEDA’S PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE?…. A couple of weeks ago, Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism coordinator for the National Security Council, explained that al Qaeda would probably prefer a John McCain victory this year, in part because the terrorist network wouldn’t want a U.S. president who enjoys popularity on the world stage.

As it turns out, al Qaeda may have more than one reason to root for McCain.

Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.

The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, “impetuous” Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier,” the message said. “Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush.”

The al-Hesbah website, closely linked to the terrorist group, added that al Qaeda “will have to support McCain,” and hoped that a McCain foreign policy would “exhaust” American resources.

I suspect the conservative response will be that this message is an elaborate attempt at reverse psychology — al Qaeda says it would prefer McCain because it really doesn’t want McCain. I suppose anything’s possible — we’re talking about the rantings of homicidal lunatics — but if the goal was to get this message out to an American audience, al Qaeda probably wouldn’t have published it in Arabic in a password-protected website.

Nevertheless, if this same site had expressed support for Obama, I suspect we’d hear about little else for the next two weeks.

Steve Benen

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.