That might have been a better way to encourage the nation through tough economic times than what Sen. Phil Gramm said this week.

When Sen. John McCain’s chief economic adviser told Americans we’re in a “mental recession” and complaining too much,
there may have been people who agreed with him. But McCain was not one
of them. Yet again, a candidate’s surrogate has sent the campaign into
damage control.

The criticism has been coming in from left and right, and McCain was
one of the first to denounce the remarks. Michelle Obama’s remarks on
the campaign trail about angry and frightened Americans are fair for
comment and critique, and so are Gramm’s.

Both campaigns have been getting edgy lately, the Times notes.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have pledged to wage respectful, dignified and honest presidential campaigns.

Yet there was Mr. Obama this week, sarcastically calling Mr.
McCain’s chief economic adviser, former Senator Phil Gramm, “Dr. Phil”
— a reference to the touchy-feely television psychologist Phil McGraw —
for saying that recent economic woes were based on a negative national
mind-set.

“He’s ‘Dr. No,’ ” Mr. McCain shot back, using his new pet name for
Mr. Obama — based on a villain in the 1962 James Bond movie — because
of his opposition to various proposals from Mr. McCain.

What’s a little name-calling between transcendent political figures?

What, exactly, are they transcending? Certainly not politics as usual.

The early talk of an unusually dignified campaign year
had caused worry at places like FactCheck.org, a group devoted to
highlighting false and misleading campaign statements under the
auspices of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of
Pennsylvania.

“If the dialogue becomes too elevated, I’ll have to retire,” said
Brooks Jackson, the FactCheck.org director. “So far, no danger there.”

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....