John McCain, Yesterday's Man for Tomorrow's Problems [TM], made a nice speech on the last night of the Republican National Convention. He was one the few speakers at the convention to say something nice about Barack Obama and sound genuinely sincere - a sign, I think, of his fundamental decency.
But what a strange speech it was. He was the one who would bring change. Change from what, inquiring minds want to know?
He was coy about saying. He couldn't mention George W, Bush, the president he votes with 90 percent of the time and whose intellectual laziness and general incompetency set everybody talking about change in the first place. After all, the delegates in the hall still loved Bush.
He did mention the Congress, which for six years of the last eight has been controlled by his own party. But in saying how the Republicans had lost the trust of the people, he managed to bring the Democrats into it.
He also mentioned his own captivity at the hands of the North Vietnamese, just in case the delegates and the folks at home had missed the same thing said by any of the dozens of previous speakers. Again, with more candor than anyone else, he did correct the impression that he had never been broken under interrogation.
Of course, there's not a decent soul in America who holds this against him, although it's a good thing his name isn't John Kerry. It's not hard to imagine what indecent souls would have floated their swift boats out of the sewer to sink Kerry if he had admitted to the same. That's because while there's plenty of crazy and vile people on the left, when it comes to pure evil, the right-wingers are the experts.
So the political proposition coming out of the convention is this: Forget the issues and the abysmal Republican record - John McCain was a POW, therefore he has a better character and is more patriotic than Barack Obama.
I wonder about this. Yes, John McCain is a war hero. But are you and I and 300 million other Americans who were not in a North Vietnamese cell any less patriotic or less firm of character for being spared such an ordeal? Perhaps.
But if the Republicans are right about this, why did they pick George Bush with his minimal service and untested character before John McCain in 2000? And how do we know that John McCain will lead the party back to the principles of Ronald Reagan now when he and the rest of them have been content to go along with Bush for eight years?
And what did John McCain's character count for when he showed that poor judgment in the Keating 5 scandal? And was he keeping faith with his fathers when he got the divorce from his wife who stood by him during his POW years? Questions, questions, and I grant you those last two are nasty but I think they are completely fair after his deification in St. Paul.
The truth is that he is a good man but he has his flaws of judgment and character like most of us - and like Barack Obama.
Further, he is not going to end bitter partisanship of the Bush years. His party is absolutely wedded to it. They imbibe it in their mother's milk and the proof is this: You can't spend a couple of days gleefully slandering your opponents and then suddenly declare that happy days are here again. But I could be wrong: Maybe Sarah Palin is the tooth fairy along with everything else she is.