A tin-eared Kinsleyan gaffe, like Harry Reid cooing about the senate seats his party’s going to reap from chaos in Iraq. As an observation of electoral reality it may be true but it’s far too crass to say aloud, as would be true of a lefty acknowledging that a downturn in Iraq would be a big advantage for Obama’s campaign vis-a-vis Maverick’s “100 years” comment (which it would, and which is precisely why Reid’s still pushing the idea of an “intractable civil war” even after the media’s given up on it). Too bad Black doesn’t have the good sense to recognize that.

On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy – this according to McCain’s chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an “unfortunate event,” says Black. “But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us.” As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. “Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,” says Black.

And the obligatory distancing:

“I cannot imagine why he would say it,” McCain said. “It’s not true. I’ve worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America. My record is very clear. The Armed Services Committee, and pieces of legislation. Sponsoring with Joe Lieberman the 9/11 Commission so we could find out the causes and how to fix the challenges that we face to fix the security of our nation. I cannot imagine it. And, uh. So, I would … If he said that, and I do not know the context, I strenuously disagree.”

And just as I’m writing this, here’s the obligatory apology and the obligatory angry statement from Team Barry calling it a “complete disgrace.” Now all we need is a 25-minute special comment from Olby and the circle will be complete.

“Democratic consultants have said similar things to me,” admits Jake Tapper about Black’s comments, and no wonder: They’re just following Hillary Clinton’s lead. I do like McCain’s response, though. Instead of simply rejecting the implication, however unintended, that Americans being killed might provide an “advantage” (which should go without saying), he uses it as an opportunity to remind the public that there haven’t been any new attacks in seven years. Shrewd. Exit prediction: Black’s comment will be seized upon by Truthers as “evidence” that Bush is planning to let an attack happen if McCain trails Obama late into the fall, and slowly but surely the meme will trickle into the mainstream of BDS sufferers until it emerges as October Surprise ’08. I know; too easy.