I just got off a conference call the McCain campaign held to deny that al-Qaeda, contrary to reports in the AP and the Washington Post, is rooting for their man.

To describe the call as panicked would be an understatement. Jim Woolsey, the former CIA director who publicly connected Iraq to the 9/11 attacks without any evidence in 2001, and senior foreign-policy adviser Randy Scheunemann spent more time whining about the Washington Post‘s standards of fairness than on the logic of why al-Qaeda might prefer McCain. "An amazing piece of journalism, and I use journalism in quotation marks," Scheunemann said, going on to list barely-approving quotes of Barack Obama given by Hamas, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, which he manfully said he wasn’t going "to characterize." Woolsey, for his part, peered into the mind of what he called "one individual Islamist blogger from one terrorist Islamist blog" and determined that he was "clearly trying to damage John McCain" and "not speaking from his heart."

What was absent from the call, oddly enough, was any discussion about why al-Qaeda might want McCain to win. And there the case is simple enough. al-Qaeda prefers an indefinite U.S. occupation of Iraq and a bellicose U.S. all across the Muslim world in order to radicalize Muslims to its terrorist cause and drain the U.S. of its financial wealth — what Osama bin Laden calls his "bleed to bankruptcy" strategy. Hence the reason why, as the CIA eventually concluded, bin Laden tried to help George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 by releasing a late-October tape. McCain pledges basic continuity with Bush on the Iraq war. As Scheunemann put it, "John McCain will spend what it takes to win."

Yet the idea of al-Qaeda preferring a U.S. strategy that strengthens it confounded the McCain camp. "It is ridiculous to believe that in its heart of hearts, al-Qaeda wants John McCain to be the president," Woolsey said. "It’s ludicrous." But the only thing that’s ludicrous is Woolsey’s expectation that the American public will keep falling for this sort of misdirection by the same blinkered analysts who blundered the U.S. into Iraq in the first place.

More from Greg Sargent & Eric Kleefeld at TPM and Dave Weigel at Reason.

Crossposted to The Streak.