Which brings us to Mitch McConnell.
The essence of this kind of politics is to hit someone hard and show that they cannot or will not defend themselves, which makes them weak and powerless, which is politically toxic. In the case of the McConnell story yesterday, Jesse Benton didn't mean for his comments to become public. But it's basically the same difference. Whatever goofball picture his campaign wants to put out, Benton's comments were humiliating for McConnell, who after all has basically owned the state's Republican party for years.
So what does he do? Basically, 'Hey, look my campaign manager says I'm a douche, yuck, yuck, yuck!'
Yes, he gets a little credit for hitting it head on and not cowering. But let's face it. It makes him look ridiculous.
I don't pretend that there was really any better way for McConnell to handle this. Rand Paul clearly was not inclined to come forward and give McConnell a full-throated re-endorsement, which might actually have been just as bad, only in a different way. And McConnell wasn't in a position to can Paul's right-hand man during a battle to prove his fealty to the Tea Party. So this is probably the best he could manage. But it still illustrates his political impotence. He is now clinging for dear life to the political upstart who beat his political protege in 2010. The whole spectacle - the picture as much as anything - makes him look weak and ridiculous. And in the shadow boxing about toughness and machismo which is the undercurrent of so much political campaigning, that's deadly.