I came to work this morning wearing my "McCain 2000" hat. I'd really like to vote for the 2000 version of McCain. I'd also probably like to vote for the 2016 version of Barack Obama, and might even wear his "Obama 2016" hat, but that one's not available yet. Our choice this year seems to be between the over-ripe and the under-cooked -- someone about whom too much is known, and someone about whom we know too little.
The McCain of 2000 was a maverick, refusing to kowtow to the religious right, mocking the certainty of George Bush and attacking the corruption of Congress by lobbyists and fundraisers. He was as likely to be seen with Democrats as he was with Republicans, and so close to John Kerry that Kerry talked to him about being the Vice-Presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket.
In today's New York Times, David Brooks characterizes McCain's previous behavior as "part of McCain's long-running rebellion against the stupidity of modern partisanship. In a thousand ways, he has tried to preserve some sense of self-respect in a sea of pandering pomposity." But now, the new McCain has gotten as pompous as the rest of them. Quoting Brooks, "McCain and his advisors have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them... Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule."
Obama, on the other hand, was regarded as the new Abe Lincoln, the smoothest orator of his generation, who called for a fundamental change in American politics. Now he equivocates and avoids, much like the politicians he's bemoaned in the past, even while he himself hems and haws -- and we count all the "uhs," "ums" and "ems" in his once flawless speechifications. The certainty of his sermons has vanished. He has become a contemplative conceptualist, a man seeming to pre-test every word, every idea, before it comes out of his mouth. He's campaigning as if he were Adlai Stevenson. I just don't know who he is.
David Brooks writes, as "McCain's campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared." On the other hand, as Obama's campaign has become more conventional, his prospects and America's hopes are dwindling. My friends who support McCain are growing more fervent in their loyalty. My friends who support Obama are growing more and more disappointed and concerned.
As for me, given all of the above, I've got no horse in the 2008 election. As I sit here in my "McCain 2000" hat, I invite all Huffingtonians to tell me why I should care.
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