Thinking back on the speech from last night, the thing that stands out is that the entire case for John McCain’s candidacy has become John McCain. John McCain isn’t the right man for this moment in history, this is the right moment in history for John McCain. To call the speech non-partisan misses the point – it was intensely partisan towards McCain and his mythology.
The goal of a McCain presidency is to get McCain in office. The end policy goal is to prove that McCain can work with others. The measure of success is how validated McCain can make his belief in himself. His speech last night wasn’t awful, it just lacked any ideological perspective beyond McCain’s faith in his own biography. McCain’s central problem is that he’s trying to convince us that he’s making a break with a party that he still fundamentally agrees with in order to take us to an ideological middle ground that only he inhabits and only he can define.
I think the most telling point of last night was when John McCain said that he’s “been called a maverick”. Yes, he has. By himself. The branding that he gave himself in 1999 and 2000 as a political calculation in a bitterly fought Republican primary has now become a tenet of faith bequeathed to him by some mysterious third party.
If John McCain isn’t president, it seems like the only person poorly served by that prospect is John McCain. It’s not a particularly good argument to take him or his candidacy seriously.