In a hybrid of defense closing argument and political obituary, David Brooks in today's New York Times comes forward as a character witness for "a serious man prone to serious things."
Citing his candor, humility, "crusade" against corruption and, most of all, his "impressive" years as the Iraq war deteriorated, Brooks attempts to separate that John McCain from today's campaigner "without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different" who has had to "rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat."
Brooks says that failure comes "in part because of his Senate training and the tendency to take issues on one at a time—-in part, because of the foolish decision to run a traditional right-left campaign against Obama and, in part, because McCain has never really resolved the contradiction between the Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt sides of his worldview.
"One day he’s a small-government Western conservative; the next he’s a Bull Moose progressive. The two don’t add up--as we’ve seen in his uneven reaction to the financial crisis."
Such personal admiration is understandable and poignant but, as this past week has shown, can't be the crucial element in a voter's decision about who should lead us out of the mess of the Bush-Cheney years, of which McCain himself, going back to the 2000 primaries, is one of the victims.
But Brooks persists in his loyalty: "If McCain is elected, he will retain his instinct for the hard challenge. With that Greatest Generation style of his, he will run the least partisan administration in recent times."
To others, based on the campaign McCain is waging, that confidence is as misplaced as associating with the Greatest Generation someone who was five years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.