(AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

Senator McCain has apparently noticed the chorus of disapproval about the bloodthirsty behavior of supporters at his and Governor Palin’s rallies. Or maybe he noticed the hit he’s taking in the polls. At any rate, he tried to tell his supporters today to rein it in

Sen. John McCain responded Friday to the increasingly angry crowds at his rallies and town halls by urging them to be respectful of his rival, Sen. Barack Obama, despite their deep policy differences with the Democratic nominee.

Speaking to skeptical supporters at a town hall in this Minneapolis suburb, McCain prompted boos from his crowd when he called Obama "a decent person" and told an expectant father that he does "not have to be scared if he is President of the United States."

"We want to fight and I want to fight, but we will be respectful," McCain said, also prompting loud boos when he declared that he admires Obama’s accomplishments.

Within limits, of course

"I want everyone to be respectful and let’s be sure we are … That doesn’t mean you have to reduce your ferocity. It’s just got to be respectful."

So what does that unreduced ferocity look like?

At a rally on Wednesday with Sen. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, someone yelled "off with his head." Later that day, a man at a rally held a sign that read "Obama, Osama." Speakers at events have increasingly been using Sen. Obama’s middle name, Hussein. At a Monday event, someone shouted "terrorist!" when Sen. McCain asked rhetorically, "Who is Barack Obama?"

With Mr Obama leading in the polls and only 24 days to go before the US presidential election, the series of outbursts have sparked the interest of the Secret Service, which guards the candidates and other dignitaries.

They launched a brief investigation after a man was heard – but not recorded – by several journalists shouting "kill him", when Mrs Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, was speaking of Mr Obama’s links to Bill Ayers, a former domestic terrorist who is now a professor in Chicago. The two men sat together on educational committees but have rarely been in contact for six years.

Before a rally in Pennsylvania this week, local Republican leader Bill Platt warmed up the crowd by several times referring to "Barack Hussein Obama," focusing on the Illinois senator’s middle name, trying to highlight his differences with other Americans.

When John McCain asked "Who is the real Barack Obama?", a supporter shouted back: "He is a bomb."

Chants of "Nobama, Nobama" mingled with cries of "terrorist," as one banner in the crowd declared: "Go ahead, let the dogs out."

Governor Palin disagrees. She thinks their campaign is not being inflammatory enough

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said more than one person has whispered in her ear in Ohio that John McCain needs "to take the gloves off" in his campaign against Democrat Barack Obama. Before a friendly crowd of Republican fundraisers Friday, the Alaska governor did that herself.

Palin said Obama was exploiting the economic crisis for political gain, "instead of trying to find solutions and work together to deal with it."…

So what form has that ferocity been taking?

The negative approach taken by the McCain-Palin campaign has coincided with a series of aggressive expressions towards the Democratic nominee over his Left-wing associations and background.

Apart from highlighting John McCain’s connections to the Keating Five scandal, the Obama campaign has perceived benefits in staying above the fray but is always prepared with a defence when attacked.

With Mr Obama leading in the polls and only 24 days to go before the US presidential election, the series of outbursts have sparked the interest of the Secret Service, which guards the candidates and other dignitaries.

They launched a brief investigation after a man was heard – but not recorded – by several journalists shouting "kill him", when Mrs Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, was speaking of Mr Obama’s links to Bill Ayers, a former domestic terrorist who is now a professor in Chicago. The two men sat together on educational committees but have rarely been in contact for six years.

At a rally on Wednesday with Sen. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, someone yelled "off with his head." Later that day, a man at a rally held a sign that read "Obama, Osama." Speakers at events have increasingly been using Sen. Obama’s middle name, Hussein. At a Monday event, someone shouted "terrorist!" when Sen. McCain asked rhetorically, "Who is Barack Obama?"

Mrs. McCain apparently agrees that her husband’s campaign is justified.

Now, I would say that Mrs. McCain, who was faced in South Carolina eight years ago with a smear campaign by, well, Mr. Rove says it wasn’t him, would have a fairly strong basis for comparison when discussing ugliness in political campaigns.

It seems, though, that Mrs. McCain’s ambitions for her husband have affected her memory some.

Since Cindy McCain and her daughter were targeted so viciously eight years ago, observers were taken aback earlier this week when she called Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign "the dirtiest campaign in American history."

Given her role in being on the sharp end of one of the most notorious political smears in recent years, some wonder if she meant what she said this week about Obama’s tactics or if she was simply caught up in the moment.

and which tactics would those be?

"Mrs. McCain made an observation that is based on irrefutable truth. She’s entitled to it, and we stand behind it," said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Bounds would not cite specific tactics by the Obama campaign comparably dirty to those found in the 2000 primary, but one McCain camp official speaking on background pointed to attacks on McCain’s age and running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Obama campaign spokespeople have compared Palin to a Nazi sympathizer and called her a secessionist, which we know is not true. They’ve unfairly dug into her past. They’ve used coded language for McCain’s age. They’ve used McCain campaign staff people in advertising and accused them of being lobbyists. The smears today are comparable to 2000 in that they’ve used viral e-mails and attacked Palin’s family," the official said.

Well, fair enough. I can see how, in order

saying the woman supported Pat Buchanan just because he said she did

saying she belonged to a seccessionist party just because they said she did, her husband did, and she spoke to their conventions

looking into the past of an almost completely unknown woman who wants to be the back-up plan to a man with recurrent cancer who was born before WW2

accusing, er, prominent lobbyists of being lobbyists

and

using e-mail

are _completely equivalent_ to, well

People in some areas of South Carolina began to receive phone calls in which self-described pollsters would ask, “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”

It was a reference to Bridget, who was adopted as a baby from an orphanage in Bangladesh and is darker skinned than the rest of the McCain family. Richard Hand, a professor at Bob Jones University, sent an e-mail message to “fellow South Carolinians” telling recipients that Mr. McCain had “chosen to sire children without marriage.”

Literature began to pepper the windshields of cars at political events suggesting that Mr. McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, that he was mentally unstable after years in a P.O.W. camp, that he was the homosexual candidate and that Mrs. McCain, who had admitted to abusing prescription drugs years earlier, was an addict.

…“One time in Hilton Head, we chased these punks down the block who were handing them out,” said State Representative James H. Merrill, the Republican state majority leader, “and when we got to them and asked them where they got them, they said some guy in a red pickup truck said, ‘Hey do you wanna make $100?’”

suppose it would be awkward for Mrs. McCain to bring all that up just now, as her husband has hired one of the guys involved to mind Sarah Palin.

But that’s OK. I’m sure her husband understands.

No, I’m _really_ sure her husband understands. So does Governor Palin.

And so do the rest of us. Right?