Here are the choices:
1. John McCain is a doddering, out-of-touch old fool easily manipulated by a bunch of nasty campaign operatives. (That’s Jim Rutenberg’s version.) Then obviously he’s unfit to be President; we’ve already tried two terms of that sort of “leadership.”
2. John McCain knows exactly what he’s doing, and all that bile his campaign is spewing reflects the real McCain. The cossacks work for the czar. The buck stops here. When his voice says “I’m John McCain, and I approve of this message” after twenty-five seconds of vicious lies, we ought to take him at his word. (That’s Kevin Drum’s version.) Again, obviously unfit to be President.
Can you think of a third choice? I can’t.
Footnote Note Rutenberg’s weasel-words: McCain’s completely baseless claim that Obama didn’t want to visit wounded troops if he couldn’t bring cameras along — contradicted by the easily established fact that he did visit wounded troops on the very same trip without either bringing cameras along or even putting the visit on his daily calendar — isn’t a lie, it’s merely “denied by the Obama campaign and undercut by the accounts of reporters.” The campaign isn’t full of easily refuted false claims, it “has included some assertions from the McCain campaign that have been widely dismissed as misleading.” (Don’t you love the passive voice?) The convention is that whether an ad is politically effective is a fact, while whether it is true is mere opinion.