The front of the Sunday Week in Review was dominated by a cartoon of McCain and Obama tugging on a "Campaign Change 2008" banner over the headline "Mr. Thrust and Mr. Parry." In two profiles of how the personalities of the respective candidates would shape their presidencies, McCain, as usual, came off looking worst.
David Kirkpatrick, the paper's former "conservative-beat" reporter, took the Republican side on "John McCain, Flexible Aggression." Kirkpatrick makes the unfounded assertion that the McCain campaign has questioned Obama's patriotism (a common charge by the Times) and puts "domestic terrorist" in quotes, as if there's any question that Obama friend and Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers is one.
His campaign has pelted his rival with attacks that make some of his old advisers wince, like questioning Mr. Obama's patriotism or tying him to "a domestic terrorist." He made a high-stakes bet on a telegenic but untested running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, with no qualms about leading the charge.
If the election were a contest to hold your breath under water, "you would be giving John McCain mouth to mouth before he would let Obama win," said his friend, former Senator Kerrey.
Kirkpatrick rehashed some of the Times' greatest hit (pieces) on McCain:
At times, Mr. McCain's confidence in the righteousness of his own cause may blind him to contradictions. He bashes lobbyists as "birds of prey" but hires a staff of former or "on leave" lobbyists to run his campaign. (While attacking the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Mr. McCain was recently embarrassed by the disclosure that until their collapse this summer they had been paying big monthly fees to the government relations firm of his campaign manager, Rick Davis.)
Mr. McCain promises to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or official favors. But around the start of his 2000 race, he wrote a letter of recommendation and arranged a Pentagon meeting to help a big donor win two lucrative California land deals. At the same time, several top advisers were warning him to keep his distance from a female lobbyist because the two appeared overly friendly, two participants in those conversations said.
By contrast, Jodi Kantor was at most mildly critical of Obama'sindecisivenessin her take, "Barack Obama, Forever Sizing Up," picturing him as torn between his promises of both "progressive rule and centrist red-blue fusion," (Barack Obama a centrist?) and defending him against "false rumors and insinuations" while praising his "stirring coming-of-age tale." (McCain's five years in a Vietnamese POW camp did not garner any kind of similar praise from Kirkpatrick, who simply noted that the ordeal left McCain "well-scarred.")
Turning deficits into assets - a skill Mr. Obama learned in his 20s as a community organizer - could well be called the motto of his rise. With his literary gifts, he transformed a fatherless childhood into a stirring coming-of-age tale. He used a glamourless state senator's post as the foundation of his political career. He mobilized young people - never an ideal base, because of thin wallets and historically poor turnout - into an energetic army who in turn enlisted parents and grandparents. And even though his exotic name, Barack Hussein Obama, has spurred false rumors and insinuations about his background and beliefs, he has made it a symbol of his singularity and of America's possibility.