It’s pretty obvious that David Broder has nothing left in the tank. He uses his column this morning to blame Barack Obama for the increasingly negative tone of the campaign. Why is it Obama’s fault? Because he turned down McCain’s offer of five townhall style debates this summer and counteroffered with two. How does it logically follow from this that Obama is responsible for the negative tone of the campaign?

The logic is tortured but I’ll walk you through it. First, even though McCain reacted negatively to Obama’s counteroffer of two townhall debates and decided there would be none, it is solely Obama’s fault that there were no townhalls because he did not accept all five. And, as a result of there being no townhall debates, the candidates were not forced to stand on stages together and forge a fine friendship. Here’s how Broder reports it:

Both men pronounced themselves thoroughly frustrated by the personal bitterness and negativism they have seen in the two months since they learned they would be running against each other.

“I’m very sorry about it,” McCain said in a Saturday interview at his Arlington headquarters. “I think we could have avoided at least some of this if we had agreed to do the town hall meetings” together, as he had suggested, during the summer months.

That’s the predicate…here’s the conclusion:

When I asked Obama how he thought the campaign could be returned to the issues, he said he hoped that the two conventions would “offer each party a chance to showcase its best ideas” and that the three scheduled presidential debates then “will allow people to see Senator McCain and myself interact in a way that keeps people more honest because you’re standing there face to face.”

I told Obama that McCain made exactly that point in arguing for the early joint appearances. What McCain actually said was: “When you have to stand on a stage with your opponent, as I’ve done in other campaigns, you obviously have a tendency to improve the relationship. . . . When you have to spend time with somebody, I think it changes the equation.”

But, since John McCain did not have the opportunity to stand on stage with Obama, he did not have the opportunity to improve his relationship with Obama, and that led inevitably to John McCain running increasingly negative ads. And this is solely Barack Obama’s fault for rejecting civility. Obama’s response? A bit too polite.

I asked Obama if he had any regrets about turning down McCain’s early June invitation to start the joint appearances back then. He said, “I think the notion that somehow as a consequence of not having joint appearances, Senator McCain felt obliged to suggest that I’d rather lose a war to win a campaign doesn’t automatically follow. I think we each have control over ourselves and our campaigns, and we have to take responsibility for that.”

Does Broder respond positively to Obama’s unassailable logic? No. Take a look.

He also noted, “We responded with an offer of doing five debates, rather than the traditional three, which the McCain campaign declined.

“My general point,” Obama continued, “is that both the conventions and the debates will offer formats for Senator McCain and myself to make our best case to the American people at a time when the American people will be paying attention.

“And ultimately, the best corrective to overly negative campaigns are the American people, who are not interested in a lot of bickering but are interested in who’s got the best answers for the country.”

I think everybody would agree with that last point.

Broder only concedes the last point, but doesn’t show any sympathy for Obama’s first three points. Somehow Broder thinks that falsely accusing Obama of full responsibility for the lack of townhall meetings, making the logical leap that he is therefore solely responsible for the lack of civility in the race, and refusing to concede the ludicrousness of such assertions makes for a fair and balanced column.

Where is the criticism of McCain for not compromising on the number of townhall meetings, or for running flatly false and petty television commercials?

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