In his speech to the VFW today, McCain not only misrepresented his support for the veteran’s bill that Jim Webb championed, he also again attacked Obama’s patriotism, repeating the outrageous smear that his rival would put political ambition over America’s security. After this, the media has no further excuse for assuming the man John McCain has become is honorable. Note to media: Lying and smearing your opponent are not honorable.

But if the Republicans thought they had an easy winner having bomb-bomb-Iran McCain rhetorically outblustering George Bush on the Georgian catastrophe, after he and his Georgian lobbyist adviser intervened to encourage Georgia’s delusions, they got a surprise yesterday from an unexpected source. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Senator Evan Bayh showed how to respond to the nonsensical "another policy disaster must be good for McCain" talking point from Tim Pawlenty.

First Pawlenty:

"And one of the questions this crisis raises is who do you want sitting across the table from Vladimir Putin and people like him, John McCain or Senator Obama? And I think the answer is Senator McCain, and that’s for obvious reasons, with his experience in national security, military affairs, his clarity, his strength, and his judgment in these matters.

"As you saw with the surge and as you see even before this crisis broke out, he said last year we’ve got a problem, we should be thinking about having Russia be disinvited from the G-8," Pawlenty added.

Bayh’s response followed Susan Rice’s suggestion on Hardball last week that McCain’s rhetoric had made things worse:

"We aren’t all Georgians now," Bayh said, referring to a comment McCain made earlier in the week. "If we were Georgians and the Russians were invading our country and killing our people, we’d be in a state of war. And clearly, that’s not what we want. And John, sometimes, he’s a good person, but he’s a little bit given to this kind of bellicose rhetoric, which has a tendency to inflame conflicts rather than to diffuse them, and that’s what you want in a president.

"I think Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated superior judgment to Senator McCain on a whole host of national security issues," Bayh added. "Whether to go into Iraq or not: Barack Obama was correct. How to get out of Iraq: The Iraqis embrace Barack Obama’s position – even George Bush is coming around.

"He was right about Afghanistan; finally, John McCain is coming around on that. He was right about engaging Iran; George Bush has come around on that. And he was right about Georgia. Months ago, he was calling for this conflict to be diffused. Instead, the president and John McCain are so obsessed with Iraq, we dropped the ball. If we’d listened to Senator Obama and his judgment, perhaps we wouldn’t be here today." (emphasis added)

Pawlenty’s reply came back to the Iraq surge, not about Georgia. But Bayh wouldn’t let that go:

"Barack Obama has consistently demonstrated the kind of judgment that we want in a commander in chief," Bayh countered. "He’s strong. He’s cool. He’s smart. That’s what we need in these difficult times."

Strong. Cool. Smart. While McCain is belligerent, hot-headed and reckless.

I think framing McCain this way, as often wrong but never in doubt, and thus dangerous to have as President, is effective. And given this excellent Times expose of McCain’s judgments following 9/11, it has the added advantage of being true.