John McCain defended his campaign from charges that it has a problem with the truth and batted back suggestions that he is economically out-of-touch during appearances on all seven morning shows Tuesday.
It was an uphill task, perhaps best illuminated by the Senator's appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. McCain was forced to redefine what he meant when he declared the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" just yesterday. He offered curt responses to charges that one of his ads falsely accuses Barack Obama of supporting sex education for kindergartners. (Later in the show, in fact, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds sent an email to host Mika Brzezinski defending the ad, which she subsequently read on air.)
Most glaringly, McCain openly sparred with Brzezinski, whom he accused of being an open supporter of Obama. Asked by the host to assess whether an ad attacking him on the economy was out of bounds, McCain replied:
"I'll leave that for the American people to decide. I still say to you, and I know you are a supporter of Senator Obama, if you would urge him to come and do town all meetings with me as I have asked him to do time after time the whole tenor of the campaign would change."
The charge created an awkward and tense environment for the rest of the segment, with Brzezinski forced to note (as she has done in the past) that one of her brothers works for the McCain campaign (another brother works for Obama, and her father was once an adviser).
"Senator," she said, "as a characterized Barack Obama supporter, I take objection. I'Il just say, take care of my brother working at the campaign."
"Thanks," replied McCain, "that was a cheap shot."
But the issue clearly hung over the rest of the morning. Later in the show, Brzezinski addressed it once again.
"In light of the John McCain interview, I feel I need to say not only does my brother work for the McCain campaign, but he worked for George Bush for six years," she said. "I'm proud of him."
Meanwhile, Republican strategist and former McCain aide Mike Murphy was left to explain away the Senator's humor, albeit adding that he thought the campaign's antagonism to the media had crossed a line.
"i don't think he meant it as an attack," he said. "There's definitely become a mentality inside the McCain campaign which is very hostile for anybody in the media they think is at all favorable to the other side. I think that's mistake. I think they overreact. I think doesn't do McCain well to have that mentality in the campaign. I don't really understand it because it's not his natural way."
Here's video for the full segment: