08/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Stupid Campaign

Growing up in a Republican household I was schooled to think of the party as the "responsible" one. That was a long time ago, before Ronald Reagan's early anti-intellectualism (James Watt, Edwin Meese, etc), supply side economics, Lee Atwater, Tom Delay, George W. Bush, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, not to mention giant deficits, the open corruption of the K-Street Project, a bafflingly incompetent foreign policy agenda, and other consequences too numerous to mention.

For years John McCain seemed like a breath of fresh air for those who could remember some virtue in the GOP. He was frequently a defender of consumers and a waged lonely battles for campaign finance reform and against torture. Now he is a candidate for the big job, and he's running a campaign that reminds me of everything that has gone wrong with the GOP.

First we hear that his economic advisors are people like Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm. After eight years of George W. running the economy into the ground, do we really want that? Then the McCain campaign focuses on demagogic issues like off-shore drilling to address a really serious need to develop an energy policy. The new white woman/black candidate ads are really offensive. Indeed, the whole tenor of the McCain campaign seems to be a predictable and time worn strategy to appeal to voters as if we are a bunch of stupid racist yahoos who don't think we need friends in Europe (or elsewhere), don't think we need to pay taxes, and who are endlessly optimistic and naive about the prospects of the U.S. managing an occupation of Iraq.

Is this it? The best McCain and the GOP can muster in 2008? The low road/low IQ campaign?

If campaigns are all about power, and this works, it has some logic, I guess. But the country would be much better served if McCain could show the GOP a more interesting way, one that lifts the debate, and moves the country forward. Make the Democrats work a bit harder to explain why they are the "responsible" party.