This evening on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, the host expressed amusement at something he'd heard earlier today on his own network. Ironically, the source of his merriment was a question posed by anchor Jack Cafferty on CNN's The Situation Room:
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Polls indicate the race is tightening. CNN's latest Poll of Polls showing Barack Obama leading John McCain now by just a single point, 45-44 percent, down from a three-point lead yesterday. And down considerably more than that from a few weeks ago.
While Obama was on vacation in Hawaii, McCain had the stage pretty much to himself. And then one bright, sunny morning, the Russians rolled into Georgia and John McCain was in the cat bird seat. Also, some of McCain's negative ads, those Paris Hilton and Britney Spears celebrity spots, seem to have resonated some with voters. It looks now like McCain made inroads with some members of the Republican base with his interview at Rick Warren's church.
All of this creating a problem for Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way up to this point to run a pretty positive campaign based on the issues, and for the most part, has chosen not to get into the schoolyard kind of stuff that characterizes U.S. politics. He may no longer have that luxury.
Obama is now out with some hard-hitting TV spots that are running in local markets in some of the key battleground states. He spent $400,000 just last Sunday to run two negative spots on McCain more than 600 times focusing on the economy and McCain in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida.
These new ads are complemented with a tougher tone out on the stump, where Obama is going after McCain for saying that Iraqis would greet Americans as liberators and for challenging Obama's patriotism. Some Democratic strategists say Obama's aggressive tone reflects the reality of the race and that he should have gotten tougher sooner.
Here's the question: In light of the tightening polls, does Barack Obama now have to go negative against John McCain?
On his program, Dobbs introduced CNN Congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin to do a piece on Obama's increasingly aggressive attacks on McCain. She completed her report:
YELLIN: Lou, on a conference call with reporters that I was on this afternoon, one of Obama's top surrogates accused John McCain of practicing dishonest gutter politics, her word. Apparently the campaign is saving the harshest attacks for Obama's surrogates so the candidate himself can appear to stay above the fray -- Lou.
DOBBS: Oh we've never seen that before, have we, Jessica?
DOBBS: I love -- well there was a question on this network earlier today whether or not -- asking whether or not viewers believed that Senator Obama should go on the attack to improve his standing against Senator McCain. The implication being that he hadn't already. I found that amusing, if I may say. Thank you very much, Jessica. Jessica Yellin.
Dobbs is right: the implication that Obama hasn't forcefully assailed McCain is absurd. Cafferty - similar to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann but without the personality - apparently seeks notoriety with his fashionably "progressive" statements, no matter how ridiculous.
Now, even CNN hosts are snickering at you, Jack. Better dust off that ol' resume and get it over over to MSNBC pronto.