I have plenty of quibbles with McCain’s ideological preferences. His substance-free presidential run left a lot to be desired. But I’m annoyed at the assumption among certain quarters of the Left that his campaign was uniquely dishonorable. Most of McCain’s attacks against Obama – from Joe the Plumber’s “spread the wealth” line to the various foreign policy hit-jobs – were focused on substance (however shallow their treatment of the issues may have been). Even the notorious “Celebrity” ad was an attack on Obama’s relative inexperience.
Some of the ads, of course, were character-related. But it’s worth remembering that McCain stuck to his guns and ignored Obama’s controversial relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright throughout the campaign. The Obama-Wright connection would have undoubtedly been effective in several battleground states – even as we speak, conservatives are gnashing their teeth at McCain’s unwillingness to use Wright – and may have even swung the election. If McCain was hell-bent on winning at all costs, it was at the very least a strategy worth pursuing. But he held his fire, perhaps out of an awareness that the issue was simply too sensitive for our racially-charged electorate. For this act of restraint, I think we owe McCain a debt of gratitude.