What interested me in Rove's testimonial, though, is the device with which he explains why he's giving it:
...I heard things about Sen. McCain that were deeply moving and politically troubling. Moving because they told me things about him the American people need to know. And troubling because it is clear that Mr. McCain is one of the most private individuals to run for president in history...The notion that a very successful American politician who has written a popular autobiography has trouble opening up to people is so hilarious that I have to think Rove chose it as an in-joke for the political community.
Private people like Mr. McCain are rare in politics for a reason. Candidates who are uncomfortable sharing their interior lives limit their appeal. But if Mr. McCain is to win the election this fall, he has to open up.
History is a better topic for McCain than current events. He has lately spoken out on health care, proposing to provide a "$5,000 refundable tax credit"; citizens may choose an insurance provider "by mail or online" to "inform the government of your selection. And the money to help pay for your health care would be sent straight to that insurance provider." This familiar Republican alternative is dressed up with assurances that "modern information technology" will make it work, with "advances in Web technology" allowing doctors "to practice across state lines," though there has so far been no mention of Federal mandates to provide us with x-ray webcams or laptop condenser microphones sufficiently sensitive to detect mitral valve dilation.
On Iraq McCain takes a mistakes-were-made approach, allowing friendly news outlets to use "McCain Blasts Bush Admin. Errors" headlines, while below the fold the candidate lauds the "significant political progress" that excuses our continued occupation.
Every once in a while he takes a stand unpopular among his listeners (though it may be much better received elsewhere), which perhaps helps his "maverick" status. But most of the work currently being done for McCain is done in sideshows -- not only in the Obama campaign, but also in his own.
In short, everything is working for McCain except for the issues. Fortunately for him, no one, least of all the press, is paying much attention to those right now. For him to win, this state of play must persist through the election. Those of us who have lived through a couple of these things have to like his chances. I'm sure Karl Rove does.