Dan Balz writes about "The Legacy of Character Attacks" in The Washington Post:
Because he is losing right now, McCain is on a more urgent mission to turn around his campaign. Because he is under attack, Obama feels the need to show he won't let his rival push him around. The effect is the same, which is to degrade the political dialogue at a moment when the nation faces some of the most difficult challenges in a generation or more.
In a month, one of these candidates will have won and the other will be asked to help rally behind the new leader to tackle the economic crisis. That would have been easier if the dialogue had not turned as it has the past few weeks.
When the final showdown came down to McCain and Obama, one might have held out hope that this Election would be different, that it would be a clean fight. But it only takes one corner willing to punch below the belt before everyone wades into the mud. Voters are partially to blame, because they are susceptible to Swift Boating and other such unsubstantiated attack methods.
McCain, as the underdog, initiated, as is logical, and he and his campaign have been stepping up the character attacks in recent days as Obama opens a gap. Obama and his camp have responded with their own videos, like the Keating Five video, though a good number of his ads still focus on the issues, where Democrats are seen as stronger.
Will the Ayers attacks and their like work again? I hope not, but I'm fearful to see the depths to which McCain and Palin and their campaign team will sink in the remaining weeks.
UPDATE: The NYTimes Public Editor chides the Times for feeding into this phenomenon by spending too many inches of column space on negative campaigning issues, the headline using the same term as I did, "mud," to mark this phase of the election: "Urgent Issues, Buried in the Mud"