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EATING YOUR OWN DOG FOOD….Question: who’s the better actor? McCain strategist Steve Schmidt or all those soccer players who flop to the ground and pretend to be near death whenever a defender comes anywhere within a yard of their shins? You make the call:

In an extraordinary and emotional interview, Steve Schmidt said his campaign feels “under siege” by wave after wave of news inquiries that have questioned whether Palin is really the mother of a 4-month-old baby, whether her amniotic fluid had been tested and whether she would submit to a DNA test to establish the child’s parentage.

Arguing that the media queries are being fueled by “every rumor and smear” posted on left-wing Web sites, Schmidt said mainstream journalists are giving “closer scrutiny” to McCain’s little-known running mate than to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

I can’t speak for the National Enquirer, but I’ve seen virtually no questions about Trig Palin’s parentage in the mainstream press — and for that matter, almost nothing in the blogosphere either. There was a shouted-down diary on the subject at Kos, and a weekend of insanity from (non-liberal) Andrew Sullivan, but that was about it.

On the other hand, the mainstream press has been full of legitimate questions about Palin’s experience, her lies about earmarks, how she ran Wasilla as mayor, whether she sympathizes with the Alaska Independence Party, her role in Troopergate, her daughter’s unwed pregnancy (announced by Palin herself), her social conservatism, her fondness for raising taxes, and plenty of other perfectly legitimate questions about a vice presidential candidate who until a few days ago was a complete unknown to virtually the entire country.

So please. Spare us the tears. The McCain campaign, after months of counting on the media to report the most egregious BS with a straight face, has finally pushed them beyond the limits of their endurance. Steve Schmidt has been the driving force behind this strategy, and he has nothing to complain about now. It turns out there are limits to what Saint John can get away with after all.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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