SCHMIDT: WHAT INCENDIARY LANGUAGE? "ONE PERSON" YELLED SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE AT A McCAIN RALLY
Nate Silver, citing today's William Kristol column in The New York Times, thinks John McCain might be planning to make a big show of changing his campaign:
The McCain campaign is planning on a major "reboot" of its campaign in some point in advance of Wednesday night's debate. This will take on something of the form that Bill Kristol advocates in his must-read Monday AM piece in the Times, including some combination of (i) pledging to run a positive campaign; (ii) firing/demoting Steve Schmidt and or/Rick Davis; (iii) apologizing for his campaign's tone. In fact, Kristol's column may be something of a trial balloon for this strategy.
(Of course, as Glenn Greenwald notes, just a week ago Kristol was urging McCain and Palin to launch precisely the kinds of attacks they engaged in last week.)
Meanwhile Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign's Prince of Darkness, was interviewed this morning by Renee Montagne of NPR and suggested that (a) there's hardly anything disturbing going on at McCain and Palin rallies and (b) Obama rallies are just as bad. Here's the key exchange (emphasis added):
MONTAGNE: ... vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was in Ohio [yesterday] and she focused mainly on the positive, as we heard elsewhere in this program, especially how Senator McCain has taken on Washington. That is a big change from some of the incendiary language that has been coming out of McCain-Palin rallies recently. I mean, Sarah Palin has regularly said some version of "Barack Obama is palling around with terrorists" -- and that's a direct quote -- and I was at a rally in New Mexico last week where when Senator McCain asked, "Who is the real Barack Obama?," a man in the crowd shouted, "Terrorist!" Are you backing off -- is the campaign backing off -- some of these attacks now?
SCHMIDT: Well, we're proud of the campaign we've run. It's been a positive campaign. It's been a campaign where we've talked about the differences with Senator Obama. Now, both campaigns have thousands of people in their crowds, and we had one person yell something inappropriate at ours, and of course we condemn it. You see that happen at Obama rallies. The difference is, it seems, that when it happens at a McCain rally it gets covered on television. When it happens at an Obama rally it doesn't get covered. When you talk about Governor Palin's line, of course, referring to Bill Ayers -- and let me be clear on this, Renee: the campaign and particularly John McCain doesn't much care about a washed-up old terrorist like Bill Ayers whose organization bombed the Pentagon and the Capitol -- but what is true and beyond debate in this race is that Barack Obama has been untruthful about the dimension of this relationship.
Not coincidentally, every Obama-hater in the blogosphere focused yesterday on the torching of a McCain house sign in Portland, Oregon. What the perpetrators did is utterly indefensible -- but it's not the result of goading by the Democratic presidential candidate or vice presidential candidate. No one is whipping people into states of hateful frenzy at Democratic rallies -- no candidate is giving violent rage this imprimatur.
But that will probably be the message for this week -- "See? The Obama people are the hateful ones!"
There's a pattern of "I'm rubber, you're glue" thinking in the McCain camp -- it's hard not to think that the "celebrity" ads, and the ads about media love for Obama that directly preceded them, were at least partly a response to Democrats' complaints that John McCain was a press darling. And it's hard not to think that the choice of Palin was the campaign's way of saying, "Oh yeah? You say it's OK to run someone inexperienced? Fine -- I got your inexperienced candidate right here!" Both the ads and the Palin pick were Schmidt's idea, so (unless Schmidt really is let go) I think we're going to hear frequently this week that it's our side that's full of nasty, vicious, dangerous people.