Another McCain adviser, who asked for anonymity discussing internal campaign strategy, bluntly warned: “It’s going to be Swift Boat times five on both sides — The candidates will both do their best publicly to mute it. But in a close race, I don’t see how to shut that down.”
For all of our sakes, let’s hope that some kind of rationality survives. No doubt much of the smearing will happen online, in websites, videos and the kind of behind-the-scenes emails that have already dogged “Manchurian Muslim” Obama. Bloggers will both help AND hurt, helping by researching and puncturing lies, hurting by spreading them. Ultimately, though, the onus is on mainstream journalists to try to separate truth from fiction. Print and online reporters have a far better record on this front so far this year; cable news has been a hellhole of unrepentant rumormongering and idle speculation. Don’t we deserve better?