The New York Times' Adam Nagourney makes an insightful observation in today's edition comparing the late-election season campaign of Bob Dole in 1996 to John McCain.
These days, Mr. McCain sounds less like his old self than Bob Dole, another Republican senator who ran for president in 1996, sounded in the closing days of his campaign — speaking louder or repeating statements that he thinks might be overlooked. “The American economy is in a crisis!” Mr. McCain said. “It’s in a crisis!”The comparison to Dole is something that has always been evident, even without dwelling on each senator's relatively advanced age.
Both Dole and McCain were the so-called "next in line" candidate that the Republican party tends to favor. Both are war heroes who suffered debilitating injuries to their upper bodies and both faced energetic and youthful Democratic foes; first with Bill Clinton and now with Barack Obama.
More telling, though, is the total lack of excitement or grand vision in both septuagenarian campaigns. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, even attracts infinitely more excitement on the stump than the actual nominee.
When Dole ran against Clinton, there was a definite sense that his campaign died on the vine, never blossomed and just accepted defeat without a whimper.
McCain's lone offensive in this campaign has been the pick of his VP and a slew of negative and outrageously false ads that followed in its wake. He tauts change without a plan for such a future and laughably believes our shambolic economy is some how "fundamentally strong".
The crux of Nagourney's article is the emasculating of McCain by his campaign. No longer is the Arizona senator allowed to be himself. Gone are the snarky comments, crude jokes and biting wit. Basically, all the things independents and some Democrats have come to love in McCain.
In this sense, McCain becomes more like Al Gore in 2000, when he too became someone alien to his self.
McCain is a fine politician and relatively trustworthy towards helping ordinary Americans, except that particular version of McCain is no longer with us.
Version 2.0 of the Straight Talk Express is dull and predictable and beholden to the dirty self-interests of the ultra-conservative right wing. His campaign has calculated he can't win without this sect of the party and have neutralized the real McCain from jokingly calling a smart-allecky high school student "a jerk" when he asked him about his age.
Instead, McCain drones on and on and on....