One of my favorite assessments of the flaws of the McCain campaign comes from Ace of Spades:
There is no “McCainism” as there was a “Bushism” or “Reaganism.” Those men offered fairly clear visions (well, Reagan particularly so). Not McCain. Everything with him is just his personal gut, principle-free, just an instinct, an impulse, which often takes him in wildly contradictory places (but he’s always haughty about the moral superiority of his decisions).
For example, he’s pro-drilling… but not in ANWR. Um, why? He’s forever undercutting himself with unexplained hedges and caveats.
He’s pro-business… Kinda. Except when he’s making his distaste for anyone working in the private sector “for profit not patriotism” so glaringly evident.
He wants to lower taxes. Sorta. Sometimes. Maybe. In election years.
We must regard Obama as suspect because of his association with the terrorist Bill Ayers… but it’s racist to mention his membership in Jeremiah Wright’s Church of Hate.
The best example of this “I trust my gut” impulsiveness? I mentioned it elsewhere…
McCain embraced the decision to suspend the campaign, to call for postponement of the first debate, and to return to Washington to jump deep into the mess that was the financial bailout bill. It was an issue McCain had limited familiarity with, and even more limited ability to influence the outcome. McCain seemed to naively think that Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Chuck Schumer would be eager to assist him in getting into a position to take credit for crafting a bipartisan compromise, and that the American people would hail a process that committed billions in taxpayer dollars to help out horrifically mismanaged financial institutions.
And then, of course, within two days of the unprecedented and surprising decision, McCain changed his mind, un-suspended his campaign, and appeared at the first debate.
In the weeks leading up to that decision, Obama surrogates and liberal bloggers had been describing McCain as “confused” and “erratic” with such synchronized frequency it suggested obsessive-compulsive disorder. And then, at the first real economic “3 a.m. call” of this election cycle, McCain behaved… confused and erratic. His behavior appeared to reaffirm his opponents’ criticism just as the public was really tuning in to the race. The equivalent for Obama would be for him to immediately have convened a meeting of his economic advisers William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and Tony Rezko, followed by a statement that the economic crisis was evidence that indeed, God was finally damning America. Obama, in fact, made what was (politically) the right call: He recognized his limited ability to shape the legislation, surmised the final product was almost guaranteed to be a political stinkbomb, and took as low a profile as possible.