David Letterman is apparently not one to be trifled with. Senator McCain cancelled his appearance on the The Late Show last minute citing his crisis-prompted campaign suspension. In response, Letterman called bullshit on McCain’s decision to “suspend his campaign” fiercely and often and repeatedly said that “something smells” about the  timing of it. He also generally kept up a steady sonning of Senator McCain as if he were a kid who was pretending to be sick in order to get out of school. For me, the most penetrating criticism Letterman offered was when he repeatedly asked why McCain didn’t simply turn over campaigning to Governor Palin while he returned to Congress to lead his party in dealing with the economic crisis. Using a football metaphor, Letterman asked why the 2nd string QB couldn’t take over from the starter for the time being.  The painfully obvious answer to this question – Governor Palin’s absolute dearth of the ability, knowledge and qualifications to take over the campaign temporarily – hung in the air in a manner very much akin to the fetid stench Letterman spoke of earlier. It was all, to put it crassly, some seriously rough shit. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the symbolism of the guest he booked to replace McCain (MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) spoke volumes as well.

Add this to Campbell Brown’s blistering criticism of the McCain campaign’s kid glove press-protection of Governor Palin as sexist, their attempt to push back both the presidential and vice presidential debates, and of course Obama’s widening lead in the polls (WaPo/ABC has it at 9%), and one sees a campaign that is very much on the ropes. As Prof. Gitlin said to me when we were speaking about the GOP’s Palin-produced, post-convention bounce on Monday afternoon, “That bubble was oh-so-spherical, wasn’t it?”

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