Sen. John McCain is getting somewhat bashed by his own party,
especially some of the heavyweight popular spokespersons in talk radio.
He’s not all that popular with too many folks, conservative Republican
or otherwise.

Over the weekend, I traveled to a family wedding in a critical swing
state in the Midwest and talked with a cross-section of people there
about the candidates, learning even more about the mistrust of Sen.
Obama. And the grudges against McCain, including some Vietnam veterans
who turned on him with the last GI bill vote.

His renegade reputation has been in question lately. It’s either, ‘where is it?’, or ‘why is he expressing it in THIS way?!’.

So I’m at the airport today reading the weekend Wall Street Journal
and coming across some interesting articles on John McCain. Especially
since very few media are doing any real coverage of him these days.
Understandably so. Which is the point of Peggy Noonan’s column.

Mr. McCain just can’t get as much coverage as Mr. Obama,
or the coverage is dutiful and therefore deadly. “McCain Unveils
Proposal.” “McCain Responds.” At Google News there are 97,000 stories
on Mr. McCain as I write this column, 138,000 on Mr. Obama. You know
Mr. McCain’s problems. He’s old, he’s angered everyone along the way,
he never seems to mean it. His stands seem like positions. He bebops
from issue to issue and never seems fully engaged in the real meat of
policy, the content of it.

Also, we all know him. This, in time, will become a benefit to him—a
big one. At the moment, early on, it’s not. Mr. Obama has the
lightning, he’s new, he’s still just being discovered.

Please, let’s discover all we can about our two presidential
candidates. Obama is already good at captivating audiences, including
the media. Noonan has some advice for McCain.

What can Mr. McCain do? It’s still early, a lot of
history has yet to unspool, we’ve entered summer and the shallow part
of the campaign, the doldrums, there’s a little space. He should take
advantage of it and have some fun.

This would be a good time for him to get interesting again. And
he’ll find it easy because he is interesting. That’s why the boys on
the bus loved him in 2000. That’s why the Republican base rejected him
in 2000. He was hot and George W. Bush was—well, let’s call it mellow.
Mr. McCain attacked Christian conservative leaders while Mr. Bush
played them. Republicans were trying to recover from eight years of
interesting. They didn’t want more.

I used to think what Mr. McCain’s aides thought after he started
winning: He has to change now, be more formal, more constrained. That
was exactly wrong.

If it’s not in the man’s nature, let him be the person he is, and not molded to media ‘handlers’.

Noonan says we need more of “McCain unplugged”.

The fall will be dead serious. At this point why not be
himself, be human? Let him refind his inner rebel, the famous
irreverent maverick, let the tiger out of the cage. It won’t solve
everything but it will help obscure some other problems. His campaign
is still not in great shape, his advance operation is not sharp—the one
thing Republicans always used to know how to do!—he has many aides and
few peers, and aides so doofuslike they blithely talk about the
partisan impact of terror attacks.

That was really stepping in it. All the campaigns have had more than
their ‘moments’. This is another one for McCain. He was trying to stay
on topic. It’s happened to the Obama campaign a number of times now.

Let’s find out more about who they are. What their policies and principles are.

Along those lines….I came across this op-ed piece in the WSJ today
and found it very interesting, as boring as it had the potential to be.
Granted, I was stuck at a gate with an ongoing delay, so venturing
further into the newspapers than I otherwise would have. But afer all, this was Phill Gramm.

It’s way too long a pice to parse down here at length. But whoever
we elect as next president of the US, they will have to deal wisely
with the issues Gramm raises in this piece, issues most Americans may
find dry or boring or out of their immediate radar range. So let’s take
it in snips:

Mr. Gramm pounces: “When you help a company raise
capital, to put its idea to work, and you create jobs, those jobs are
the best housing program, education program, nutrition program, health
program ever created. Look, if a man in one lifetime is responsible for
creating 100 real jobs, permanent jobs, then he’s done more than most
do-gooders have ever achieved.”

His dialogue gets into the real competition between the two worldviews at stake in this election. Good stuf to pay attention to.

“Why is America the richest country in the world?” he
asks. “It’s not because our people are more brilliant; it’s because we
have a better free-market system. Why has Texas created 1.6 million
jobs in the last 10 years whereas Michigan has lost 300,000 jobs and
Ohio has lost 100,000 jobs? Because governance matters, taxes matter,
regulation matters. Our opponents in this campaign are so dogmatic in
their goal of having more government because they love the power it
brings to them that they’re willing to let it impose costs on the
working people that they say they want to help. I am not.”

Hers’s anothe interesting snip:

To Mr. Gramm, the silver bullet is the veto pen. Here’s
his explanation: “If McCain is elected, he’s going to have one thing
Democrats in Congress desperately want: control of the money. And his
ability to promote his agenda – the tax cuts, his foreign policy – will
depend on his willingness to say no. Bush simply signed everything.
They could blackmail Reagan by threatening to cut defense. But there is
nothing John McCain wants from Congress. He wants to cut defense.
There’s no place they can take him in cutting spending that he’s not
willing to go.”

That’s a more formidable opponent that anyone has credited John
McCain with being. As Peggy Noonan urges, this summer ‘down time’ is
prime time to reorganize that campaign. And all prevailing political
wisdom aside (that would be the collective wisdom that has gotten
Washington nowhere for several years not), it’s time to let the
candidates be themselves. And then Americans will know who they’re
about to elect.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....