Is this a trick question?

It’s clear … that McCain isn’t saying he’d support continuing the war for one hundred years, only that it might be necessary to keep troops there that long. That’s a very different thing. As he says, we’ve had troops in South Korea for over fifty years, but few people think that means we’re still fighting the Korean War.

Nevertheless, back in February, Obama said: “We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another hundred years.”…

Since then, some conservatives have drawn attention to the distortion, and Obama’s been a bit more careful with his language. Today, for instance, he said: “We can’t afford to stay in Iraq, like John McCain said, for another hundred years.” It’s technically true that McCain said that, but Obama’s clear goal in phrasing it that way was to imply, falsely, that McCain wants the war to continue for that long. In other words, he’s gone from lying about what McCain said to being deeply misleading about it. Progress, of a kind…

This matters. Obama has given every indication that his general election strategy on Iraq and foreign policy will be to portray McCain as dangerously bellicose. If he’s going to do so by distorting McCain’s words, the press should forcefully call him out on it each time.

“Don’t we already know all this, AP?” Yeah, but it’s the source that makes it interesting. The Columbia Journalism Review, a trade publication of the industry, calling the media out early on one of the Democrats’ killer memes? Good lord. I don’t want to trend-spot prematurely but it’s worth noting that the reporter who asked Obama about Iraq yesterday also corrected him on the substance of McCain’s comment when he feigned ignorance (an Obama specialty, as we now know from l’affaire Wright). If the guy’s already ratcheting down his rhetoric for fear of the grief it’s caused him — and the RNC is gleefully keeping tabs — maybe this meme’s not so killer after all. Especially when even MSNBC’s choking on it.

Exit question: Would any other Republican besides St. John get this treatment? I want to believe.