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The Martyrdom Of John Mccain, Part Two

In light of John McCain's recent the-papers-have-a-crush-on-the-other-boy victim act -- and its debunking -- I thought I'd reprint some of one of my favorite pieces of writing from this election, Jonathan Martin's deliciously tongue-in-cheek "The Martyrdom of John McCain," published right before the South Carolina primary. Make no mistake: The victim thing is no temporary, grasping-at-straws campaign strategy; it's McCain's bread and butter. Enjoy:

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The national media thinks John McCain is under siege again, and his campaign is only too happy to help reporters file their stories. At a rally Thursday, outside McCain's headquarters just down the street from the state capitol here, the candidate and a key local supporter, Sen. Lindsey Graham, are explaining that sorcerers of the dark political arts are at work. "There's a lot being said out there on phone calls, in the mail, that's a bunch of garbage - ignore it," Graham proclaimed. "We know the truth." "You know that a lot of nasty things are going on," McCain added, "but ignore that stuff."

The truth is, not that many nasty things are going on in 2008, certainly not compared to the bare-knuckled 2000 GOP presidential primary here, and probably not much more so than in your garden-variety campaign for elected office. ... McCain's lagging rivals don't mention his name in stump speeches, they don't criticize him and they aren't even airing negative ads against him.

You'd hardly know that from the McCain campaign, though. They recognize that there is sympathy to be gained by playing the victim and they're milking it for all it's worth. ...

Indeed, the national media is consumed by the McCain-as-victim narrative just two days out from the Republican primary, with the major newspapers filled with accounts of McCain valiantly fending off smear tactics and the networks focused on the same. A Thursday evening segment reports that McCain's "South Carolina Truth Squad" is doing a better job of combating negative ads than in 2000. Of course, the creation of the group was as much about reminding voters that McCain was attacked in 2000 as it was about defending against actual attacks. 

--Eve Fairbanks