Obama Toughens As McCain Is Exposed. Just Mind the Blowback.

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We'd rate their responses as "subprime." Photo: Getty Images

Last week, erstwhile straight-talker John McCain made clear that he no longer cares what his old pals in the media think of him. Accusations that he distorted the record on topics from the Bridge to Nowhere to Barack Obama's position on sex ed were dismissed or ignored. Consequently, the mainstream media seems to have fully committed itself to a new narrative, one that liberals had hoped it would adopt for some time: McCain is lying, a lot. Obama is hitting on the theme as well in statements and a new ad which call into question McCain's honor. But could complaints about McCain's dishonesty end up hurting Obama more than McCain's dishonesty hurts McCain?

• Marc Ambinder says the McCain campaign has "gone thoroughly post-modern on us," claiming there is no such thing as truth. The press has finally turned on McCain, creating a "narrative" of him as a distorter. But the Obama campaign maintains "that McCain isn't paying a penalty for deliberately, knowingly and willfully misleading people." [Atlantic]

• Mickey Kaus suggests the liberal blogs and mainstream media drop the tactic of getting outraged by McCain's lies. "MSM outrage doesn't sway voters anymore," especially after the failed "assault" on Palin. Plus, it makes Democrats look weak, which, while unfair, is the reality they have to deal with. [Kausfiles/Slate]

• Michael Scherer writes that the backlash to McCain's strategy of faux outrage and misleading claims "has not yet had an impact on voter's perceptions of McCain's credibility though, with the press emboldened, that could change." So far, McCain's favorables have gone up more than his unfavorables. [Time]

• Steve Chapman claims that while "politicians are not saints, and campaigns are not conducted under oath," the McCain campaign's dishonesty "is of an entirely different scale and character." He could simply run against Obama on the issues, but "McCain has concluded that a fact-based case about Obama isn't enough to prevail in November." While he may not be willing to lose a war to win an election, he is willing lose "his soul." [Reason]

• Andrew Sullivan contends McCain "needs to be exposed as the dishonest, despicable, desperate and dishonorable cynic he has become." [Atlantic]

• Ezra Klein partially defends the McCain campaign's "decision to lie about, well, everything," as "a rational and obvious response to the rules laid down by the media." As the McCain campaign claims, nobody in the media covered McCain when he was quietly talking about policy issues earlier in the year. The media feeds on conflict. Still, while it doesn't justify "sacrific[ing] his honor and dignity with astonishing enthusiasm," McCain is simply "following the incentive structure laid out by the media." [American Prospect]

• Carrie Budoff Brown examines how Obama has been responding recently to McCain. The "hopemonger" has vanished, and in its place a less optimistic Obama is trying to be tougher without getting "into the mud." Recently, the Obama campaign seems "determined to get under McCain's skin by using words that evoke military service to question his campaign tactics, which they have described as 'dishonorable' and lacking integrity." [Politico]

• Michael Goodwin finds it "weird" that Obama would start getting tough on McCain now since he's "been doing exactly that for four months ... The problem is that he hasn't done anything else." The decision to drop the "post-partisan uniter" for "a party man who sees the other side as evil and beneath contempt" will likely turn off independents and should "end the myth that the Obama campaign is a flawless machine." [NYDN]

• Jonathan Capehart likes the new Obama ad, which "juxtaposes McCain's own promise to run an honorable campaign with the blizzard of criticism he has received for ads that perpetuate outright lies," and suggests he "now needs to stay on offense." [Post Partisan/WP]

• Greg Sargent expects the ad to be met, "without question," with the POW card. [Election Central/Talking Points Memo]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that, for "someone who prides himself on his 'straight talk,'" McCain had a "brutal weekend" in the media. And in addition to being called out on his lies by the press, the Obama campaign "is doubling down on this criticism." But "[d]o campaigns that complain about tone win? Are those campaigns ahead when they complain about negativity?" [First Read/MSNBC]

Related: Keating: McCain Now Openly Indulging in (Political) Pornography

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.