Higher Standards Bite Obama, McCain

"Politicians deploy righteous indignation like college students use credit cards -- to excess and with abandon," Time's Michael Scherer writes. "But there are sometimes hidden costs in the fine print, interest payments not due for months, especially when the outrage is calculated for maximum political effect."

Gail Collins sees an unforced error: "It's like having your career ruined because you invited the wrong person to host a party in honor of your nephew's godparents," she writes. "Gentle spirits may decide that it's a good thing that the Obama campaign is getting this sort of thing out of the way early. Crueler ones may note that at least they can't blame this one on Hillary."

And Johnson departed maybe a day too late for Obama to get any real credit for decisive action: "The American people have reason to question the judgment of a candidate who has shown he will only make the right call when under pressure from the news media," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

In the same vein of living by one's own standards, we bring you McCain himself, setting back his efforts to distance himself from President Bush with one tin-eared phrase Democrats are pouncing on.

By saying that the timeframe for removing troops from Iraq is "not too important," McCain looked (to Democratic eyes) Bush-like in his steely (rusty?) resolve.

"On behalf of Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, Democrats pounced, saying McCain's statement showed the Arizona Republican had little concern for the troops," the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick writes.

A hundred years lasted a few months, "Bomb Iran" was fading like the Beach Boys themselves -- it was time for McCain to help a Democrat out (and the DNC was quickly up with a Web video highlighting the rhetorical lowlights).

Leaving aside the fact that the new politics appears to last about as long as it takes for another gaffe to emerge from the other side, and that the context on this quote makes McCain's meaning pretty clear -- this stuff works (ask Kerry -- tapped to fight this one for Obama on Wednesday, in a role what had to make him smile just a bit).

Yes, this moves the campaign to a playing field where McCain is rightly confident: national security. Yes, McCain can legitimately claim independence from President Bush, even on the war. Yes, McCain may even be right that the public has soured on this kind of politics.

Still, for Democrats who are trying to brand "third Bush term" into the national consciousness, this was a gift.

"Wednesday's flurry was another in a series of Democratic attacks aimed at portraying McCain as committed to an open-ended U.S. presence in Iraq," per USA Today's David Jackson.

It was an old trick, but was it an OLD trick? Democrats repeatedly referred to McCain as "confused" -- "seeming to feed into concerns voters might have about the Arizonan's age," ABC's Jake Tapper writes.

"Wednesday's dustup was the first time the age issue was raised seriously in the general election campaign," Richard Sisk writes in the New York Daily News.

Time for McCain to ask for a new kind of politics: "Instead of taking someone's comments out of context and flashing them around on the cable shows, why don't we hear complete answers and complete thoughts," McCain said Wednesday, per the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan.

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