I'm convinced that John McCain loves America. Apart from his having said so every week for a year on the campaign trail, he fought hard to push the surge in Iraq, which saved us untold grief. Unfortunately, he loves America like a man loves his invalid wife. He would do anything to cure her illness, while having no clue how to do so.
Maybe he's getting a lot of mixed advice, and doesn't know which doctor to believe. Maybe his physicians studied at European universities during the Middle Ages and all they know is more leeches and blood letting. It's hard to tell because his prescriptions have been all over the map.
Mostly, it consists of railing against the "greed on Wall Street" with the occasional recognition that somehow our economic woes had something to do with Fannie and Freddie running amok. Here and there he sometimes still talks about Afghanistan and the need to fight the jihadis. Not a word about Iran for months. Once in a while, he throws in some scary jabber about the need to "deal with climate change."
Underlying all this is... nothing. No stable plan, no basic principles, no understanding of how this connects to that. And that is the essential problem with John McCain, from a moral perspective. He certainly does cling to a certain view of life. Everyone has one. But as for intellectual self-guidance, and therefore any consistent recommendations for guiding the country, nada.
Still, defying all expectations, a ray of sunshine sometimes peeks out through his fog. Recognizing, however vaguely, that "spreading the wealth" is no way to make anyone wealthy is a good thing. Having the perspicacity to look into the eyes of Vlad the Impaler Putin and seeing "K-G-B" is also good. Displaying the courage to sing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran," is outstanding... if only he had the courage and perspicacity to be singing it now when we really need it.
But Obama is right about one thing (and only one thing, so far as I've ever heard), McCain is erratic. Yet even on that one thing Obama isn't right in the way he thinks he is. For, he was referring to McCain's policies and the Republican's main randomness lies deeper down. He's ethically erratic.
Sometimes he recognizes (though he can't formulate it this way) that, indeed, greed is good. When a man wants to invest to achieve a better material standard of living, he is driven by greed, and thank god for that. Without greed, life would be stagnant.
Sadly, McCain can't distinguish between that type of greed and the sort that makes a man willing to put his wife into a wheelchair, in order to impress himself in the boardroom. I have known many such men personally and McCain is right, they are revolting because they lack any sense of honor.
Once in a rare while, he rises to the level displayed at the third Presidential debate. On that occasion he came very close to declaring that freedom is moral. He argued for school vouchers, a weak but good step in the direction of obsoleting the public school system, not just to improve education but because choice is good. He advocated lowering taxes, not merely as a practical fix for the current economic mess, but because people have a right to their income. He said the country needs less government, not more, because people should be free.
Tragically, he didn't say any of this as clearly as I just have. But, even so, his basic theme was clear, however sporadically. For once. If he did, consistently, he would be 10 points ahead. But then, inconsistency — the hallmark of the pragmatist — is the root problem in McCain's case.
If in the coming days leading up to the election he can continue to hammer that theme, he might just have a chance to win. The odds are still about 50-50 in all the key states and I remain convinced that most voters in Colorado, Ohio, etc. currently embracing socialism are doing so without understanding what they will really get. If they did, Obama wouldn't merely lose, he'd be run out of the country.
Whether the Senator from Arizona can attain, even for two weeks, the moral clarity to do so remains to be seen. Which is pretty much what one always is forced to say about John McCain.