As a communication strategist, I love to think about how I'd solve really intractable communication challenges. John McCain has one of the most difficult ones I've ever seen in politics so, just for fun, here are the six things I'd suggest he do tonight at the debate and between now and November 4.
1. Bash George Bush tonight. Bash him deeper and more authentically than any Republican has in the past eight years. This is essential. Explain, sincerely (if it is possible to do so) how difficult it has been for you to be a "team player" and support an administration, out of party loyalty, that did not have a clue as to what it was doing or, worse yet, was not representing the real interests of America.
Then you could even begin to call yourself a "maverick" again.
2. Praise Barack Obama. Disappoint all of your little hate-filled supporters and step up to the plate as a class act. You know you have great respect for your colleague. You know how smart and patriotic and honest this guy is. Be real and share this openly, far beyond what you did in that Town Hall meeting on Monday.
3. Admit that the Republican Party is the No-Tax and Spend Party and that that has been worse for America than any Democratic administration in history, and that the entire party has lost its soul.
4. Get Rid of Sarah Palin. You can't win with her. Every day that goes by intelligent independents and moderate Republicans see that she is not capable of holding national office. It is more embarrassing to keep her than to dump her. Take the hit and blame it on new information that has come out of Alaska since you chose her.
5. Ask Robert Rubin or Warren Buffett or Mike Bloomberg or another true master of economics to serve as your running mate since you clearly know nothing about the biggest issue facing the country. And resist the urge to invite Phil Gramm, even though he has a degree in economics.
6. Stop whining about earmarks, stop whining about talking to world leaders without "Pre-conditions" (what confident adult needs those to have a conversation), stop whining about your opponent's "associations" unless and until you apologize and explain all of yours that are far worse, and admit that we can't continue to afford a $10 Billion "Occupation" and that even though your lovely "surge" may have "worked", the entire invasion and occupation has not and will not.
In other words, short of the largest caging operation and electronic voting machine theft in the Republicans' sorry history of stealing elections or a trumped up national security emergency that will paralyze the nation with Reptilian Brain fear, you, Senator McCain, have nothing. You don't have the courage to do any of the things I've listed and that, sadly, is the deepest point. You used to, you used to have courage. You used to be a maverick, but it is so clear that you have sold your soul and lost your way.
Your consolation, however, is that a Barack Obama Administration will truly bring all of the wonderful things to this country that I'm sure you also want. The world will respect us again, we will have sensible and forward thinking policies in all areas of our national life and will have a calm, steady, intelligent leader. It's all good, John, especially if you don't take my advice.