Sunday, September 16, 2007

McCain's Tenuous Comeback

Once the media writes an obituary, the departed is supposed to stay dead. But John McCain is showing signs of new life with David Petraeus as his savior and Don Rumsfeld as the straw man to distance himself from Bush’s bungling of Iraq.

The Straight Talk Express, now re-dubbed “No Surrender,” is on the road again picking up some momentum but, as seen on “Meet the Press” today, McCain will have to overcome not only other Republican contenders but his own tendency toward testiness under fire.

In debating John Kerry, he started out with a smooth, subdued testimonial to his own good judgment about pacifying Iraq that was ignored by Rumsfeld et al but is now being vindicated by Petraeus’ “success.”

But as Kerry challenged him, McCain’s smile froze, jaws tightened and he kept using his tell-tale expression of hostility, “My friend”--exposing the hot-headed impatience with criticism that is the other side of the affability McCain always shows with Jon Stewart.

As the oldest candidate in the Republican field, it will be hard enough to emulate Bill Clinton’s feat in 1992 as the “Comeback Kid,” but McCain has some traction now as the most experienced potential Commander-in-Chief to navigate a Republican course toward peace in Iraq as the polls show Fred Thompson slowing the effects of Rudy Giuliani’s conversion to conservatism.

But if McCain is to make his case for a strong, steady hand at the helm in the face of terrorist turbulence, he had better start showing it.

If not, media pundits will be ready and waiting to justify their obituaries.

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