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Animal Farm

Jake Tapper has a good rundown of one of the more pathetic moments of the campaign so far, an effort by former Massachusetts Governor--and McCain surrogate--Jane Swift to claim Barack Obama was calling Sarah Palin a pig when, discussing McCain's "change" message, he used the common phrase, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." Swift stoically clung to her idiot smear despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary--Obama having used the same phrase to describe Bush's Iraq policy, the divine irony that McCain himself used the motto last year to describe Hillary Clinton's health care plan, etc.--and even extended her obtuse literal-mindedness, adding the charge that Obama was calling McCain a "fish," when he offered a variant on the old saying about fish and newspapers.

How to deal with such sleazy nonsense? Should the Obama campaign respond, or hope the press does its job and bats it down? There is, after all, more than one way to skin a cat, and sometimes it's best to let sleeping dogs lie. It was a surrogate who made the claim, not McCain himself, and we all know that when the cat's away the mice will play. Even as inspiring a leader as John McCain can lead a horse to water but he can't make it drink.

And it may be that with this sorry gambit, Swift has rolled snake eyes. Tapper, Marc Ambinder, Ben Smith, and Ari Melber all smelled a rat and declared this the fish story it is, and perhaps the rest of the press will follow suit. Still, the bogus charge is further evidence--along with McCain's disgraceful new ad--that he intends to run a campaign that's not fit for rats. Can we expect more dishonest smears like this one? Does a bear shit in the woods?

--Christopher Orr