Says David Brooks.
On Tuesdays, Senate Republicans hold a weekly policy lunch. The party leaders often hand out a Message of the Week that the senators are supposed to repeat at every opportunity. Sometimes there will be a pollster offering data that supposedly demonstrates the brilliance of the message and why it will lead to political nirvana.
John McCain generally spends the lunches at a table with a gang of fellow neâ€™er-do-wells. He cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally ridicules the whole proceeding. Then he takes the paper with the Message of the Week back to his office. He tosses it on the desk of some staffer with a sarcastic comment like: â€œHereâ€™s your message. Learn it. Love it. Live it.â€
This sort of behavior has been part of McCainâ€™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. Heâ€™s done it through self-mockery, by talking endlessly about his own embarrassing lapses and by keeping up a running patter on the absurdity all around. Heâ€™s done it by breaking frequently from his own party to cut serious deals with people like Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. Heâ€™s done it with his own frantic and freewheeling style, which was unpredictable, untamed and, at some level, unprofessional.
When McCain and his team set out to win the presidency in 2008, they hoped to run a campaign with this sort of spirit. McCain would venture forth on the back of his bus, going places other Republicans donâ€™t go, saying things politicians donâ€™t say, offering the country the vision of a different kind of politics â€” free of circus antics â€” in which serious people sacrifice for serious things.
It hasnâ€™t turned out that way. McCain hasnâ€™t been able to run the campaign he had envisioned. Instead, he and his staff have been given an education by events.
I think Brooks’ analysis of the changing McCain campaign methodology is interesting and enlightening. He’s right that McCain has been gaining good traction at the expense of the Obamessiah.
Brooks, of course is just about as much of a non-meaningfully-conservative RINO as McCain, so he views McCain’s eagerness to double-cross the GOP leadership in favor of his own interest with a sympathy I’m not quite able to muster. I suppose electing a me-too, Eisenhower Republican, in favor of Socialism just like the democrats, only a little less is better than electing an out-and-out Marxist like Barack Hussein Obama, but don’t expect me to vote for him.