Eyebrows Arch As McCain Adviser Finds Silver Lining in Terrorist Attack

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The Straight-Talk Express got a little too straight yesterday, when it was revealed that Charlie Black, a senior adviser to John McCain, told Fortune that another terrorist attack on the United States would be a "big advantage" for McCain in the election. (Cue comic spitting-out of whatever people were drinking at the time.) Barack Obama's campaign responded quickly, calling the remark "a complete disgrace." McCain, befuddled, and almost certainly trying to contain his seething rage, distanced himself from the statement, saying, "I cannot imagine why he would say it. It’s not true ... I cannot imagine it. And, uh. So, I would … If he said that, and I do not know the context, I strenuously disagree." But no matter how tactless it was, many people think what Black said was actually common sense, or at least plausible.

• Marc Ambinder says that in “our post-9/11 etiquette, campaign advisers are never supposed to answer questions like” the one Black was asked. And it’s not certain Black was right: Would voters “flock to the security blanket provided by a guy with decades of national-security experience,” or would “they blame McCain by proxy”? [Atlantic]

• Jim Geraghty, tongue planted firmly in cheek, contends that “there's no reason to think that after a terrorist attack, Americans would prefer the leadership of a war veteran who's spent his entire career dealing with national-security issues,” instead of turning “to the former community organizer.” [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• Greg Sargent speculates it might have benefited Obama if he had called on McCain to fire Black, as it could have “kept the story going and forced the McCain team to prove it's serious about not indulging in the Rovian fearmongering that McCain claims to be above.” [TPM Election Central]

• Rick Klein and friends write that it's "tempting (and maybe accurate) to cast this as a rerun of the GOP's 2004 strategy" of questioning John Kerry's ability to protect the country from terrorism, but "was this really the story line that McCain wanted" on the day he "was beginning to get some traction on his energy proposals"? [Note/ABC News]

• Michael Crowley notes that it “wasn't so long ago that Democrats hesitated even to accuse Republicans of using security-related scare tactics, lest they seem whiny and weak.” As for the truth behind Black’s statement, “a lot depends on the particulars” of any hypothetical attack. [Stump/New Republic]

• Michael Scherer says it’s just “sad” that we’re “having this conversation,” and expects “lots of ugly charges and counter-charges” from cable news “gasbags.” [Swampland/Time]

• Jennifer Rubin calls Black’s remark “tasteless” — “albeit accurate.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jake Tapper reminds us that in August Hillary Clinton also said, though with more careful phrasing, that an attack would give the Republican candidate an advantage, and was “pilloried” for it. [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that “for what it's worth, there's been chatter among some Democrats that the big fear Obama aides have is just what Black spoke about — some sort of national security crisis popping up in October.” This is why many are convinced that Obama will pick a VP with good national-security credentials. [First Read/MSNBC]

• Brian Montopoli speculates that the McCain campaign’s freewheeling media accessibility could change with this latest gaffe. At the very least, though, “a case can certainly be made that, purely from a logical perspective, Black’s argument was defensible — if not exactly prudent.” [Horserace/CBS News] —Dan Amira

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.