Mike made a nice catch last week when he linked to this McCain ad from the 2000 campaign that lambasted Bush for making the same sort of dishonest attacks McCain's making now:
The funny thing about that ad, though, is that a number of people who worked on the McCain 2000 campaign later viewed it as a terrible mistake. Indeed, whenever I've tried to engage a McCain person in the past year about the despicable campaign Bush ran against their guy in South Carolina in 2000, they've almost always acknowledged it, but then faulted themselves for losing their cool in the face of those attacks; McCain's defeat, they'd say, had less to do with Bush's attacks than McCain's response to them. The recent Texas Monthly profile of John Weaver got at this thusly:
Looking back on it, however, Weaver does not blame Rove for McCain’s defeat. “Our mistake was that we made emotional decisions,” he said. “We stopped talking about our reform agenda and started talking about process, what Bush was saying about us.”
Which sort of makes you wonder whether the low-road campaign McCain is waging now is the natural outgrowth of the high-road one he tried to wage in 2000. In fact, if you look back at the GOP primaries, it wasn't as if McCain was being that high-minded back then, either. He was just blessed with a target in Mitt Romney whom no one could feel all that much sympathy for.
It also makes you wonder whether, however many years from now, Obama people will celebrate their ad (finally) responding to McCain's low-road attacks as a smart counterpoint; or whether they'll regret it as an instance where (to borrow a phrase) they stopped talking about their reform agenda and started talking about process, what McCain was saying about them.