McCain will put “country first” at debate

The Obama campaign today sent out a “memo” to reporters on “John McCain’s plan to ‘whip’ ‘That One’s’ ‘you-know-what.'” They quote three separate pundits saying McCain needs a game-changer tonight, and imply he’ll go after Obama’s connection to “terrorist” Bill Ayers. I don’t think so. I think McCain’s read the same polling as everyone else, and he’s chosen to go out with as much dignity intact as he can manage at this point. I expect a solid performance from McCain, but I don’t expect a nasty, negative “game-changer.”

Last week, McCain drew boos from an audience for calling Obama “a decent family man and citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about.” Not what you’d expect from how things have gone these last few months.

Certainly McCain’s campaign hasn’t toned down the rhetoric. His smiling face and message of approval still appear in ads that seem designed to whip up a frenzy of fear and distrust for a presidential candidate who supposedly hates the country he wishes to lead. Palin, oh Palin, I don’t even know where to start with that pit bull in lipstick. Sadly, it seems only McCain got the memo that the republic matters more than the election.

Back in 2000, Al Gore could have challenged the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s decision that handed the election to George W. Bush, and could have stood behind the huge crowds of left-wingers so angry that to this day they still cling to the notion of a “stolen” election. He could have undermined Bush’s legitimacy and created a division in this country like we hadn’t seen since the 1960s. Similarly, General Robert E. Lee could have ordered his men at Appomattox to disperse into the mountains and carried on a guerrilla war against the Union for years, if not decades. In the end both men put country first, and despite all the attacks coming out of his campaign, I believe John McCain has done the same.

I’ve worked on enough races to know they sometimes just get away from the candidate: that so-called “experts” come in to make all the decisions and the money behind the campaign won’t let the candidate run things the way he or she would like. These kinds of campaigns, by the way, usually lose. In the end, Americans still vote for the person, and when the person and the campaign lose each other, the message gets so muddled that people instinctively know something has gone wrong.

Maybe I just like John McCain. I mean the old McCain, not this version 2.0 or 3.5 or whatever we’re on now. The guy who used to tell the press they were “jerks” and went after the religious right for hate-mongering. I suppose deep down I just hope that version of McCain has watched the past few months in horror, like having an out-of-body experience. Now that the polls show the “experts'” strategy didn’t work, I want the old McCain back — and I think he does, too.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.