John McCain insists he has never questioned Barack Obama's patriotism:

Yesterday, Senator Obama got a little testy on this issue. He said that I am questioning his patriotism. Let me be clear: I am not questioning his patriotism; I am questioning his judgment. Senator Obama has made it clear that he values withdrawal from Iraq above victory in Iraq, even today with victory in sight. Over and over again, he has advocated unconditional withdrawal – regardless of the facts on the ground. And he voted against funding for troops in combat, after saying it would be wrong to do so. He has made these decisions not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't seem to understand the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq, how it would risk a wider war and threaten the security of American families.

This is completely disingenuous. McCain said that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election. To accuse somebody of deliberately wanting to lose a war is to atack their patriotism.

Lest there be any doubt about this, McCain was asked two months ago if he questions Obama's patriotism, and he declined to answer:

QUESTION: "Do you question at all his patriotism and secondly do you think your idea of patriotism and his are any different and is that something that you share?"

McCAIN: "I think that Senator Obama is a great American success story. I think his family is. I think he's someone who is admired and respected throughout this country and the world. I think our differences are how we intend to move forward in conducting the affairs of this country. We have very different views and very different positions, and I look forward to ventilating those.

"But I think all Americans are proud of Senator Obama and what he's been able to accomplish, he and his entire family have been able to accomplish, in this nation, and I think it's living proof of some of the greatness of America."

McCain wouldn't say that Obama is a patriot because questioning Obama's patriotism is an essential element of McCain's campaign strategy, and he knows it perfectly well. He's playing a game of questioning Obama's patriotism while pretending not to.

--Jonathan Chait