10/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Where's McCain the Warrior?

Like Joe Lieberman, I'm a John McCain kind-of Democrat. I admire the Senator's independence and agree with him on political reform, the environment and domestic spending.

Or, I should say, I was a McCain Democrat until, that is, McCain the Warrior morphed into McCain the Whiner; the Maverick into the Magpie. I never thought I'd see the day that fighter pilot John McCain would hide behind a woman's skirts. It's nearly enough to make me pull for Bob Barr.
Perhaps it's only temporary and the McCain that I thought I knew -- the guy who slap-boxed Mitt Romney silly for 12 months -- will resurface. But I'm not holding my breath.

Instead of taking the fight to Obama over real topics like the economy, education reform or taxes, McCain has decided to maul his opponent over trumped up, phony-baloney issues. Pit bulls and pigs? Come on, John, it sounds like a bad suburban motorcycle club.

Why is McCain willing to risk his honor and run away from a fight he reasonably could expect to, if not win, give as good as he gets? The predictable response is Sarah Palin, and in this case conventional wisdom would be right.

McCain's pick of Palin was inspired. Wrong, but inspired. Like Gov. Palin, I share a passion for the outdoors, hunting and fishing. Alaska is one of my favorite spots in the world and I'd like nothing more than to wet a line or swap tales with the governor. But turn over the keys to the White House, I'm not there yet. Maybe she'll mop the floor with Joe Biden and I'll be forced to reassess my view. But it's Gov. Palin's record -- not her governing style -- that concerns me and I suspect it troubles McCain as well.

On key issues -- stem-cell research, global warming, earmarks -- Palin and McCain's positions collide head-on. Any attempt by the candidate to address the contradictions could trigger an avalanche of questions about his own judgment and possibly bury his presidential hopes. Better to complain that the press and the Obama camp are dissing Lady Sarah than tempt fate.

But by being a whiner and not a warrior, McCain runs an even greater risk. He could achieve for Obama what Mother Nature failed to do: He could make the string bean look like Charles Atlas and in the process irreparably damage his own reputation among Independents and Democrats alike.