A Note To The Younger Staffers On The Two Campaigns: We in the media, those of us who've followed this for a year, certainly engage emotionally with this story...the presidential race. But we can also be very flip and casual about something you take very seriously. I take back nothing I've written. But you've lived in 24/7 in the service of one of the candidates, and for many of you, it is the biggest thing you've ever done in your lives and your their devotion to the cause is intense. I talk with many of you -- ssh, don't tell your bosses -- I know how long it's been since you've gotten a good night's sleep, visited your girlfriend or boyfriend, eaten a home cooked meal, etc.
It is an awesome thing to do... to try to help elect the next leader of the free world... regardless of which side you're on. If things play out the way they appear to be playing out, the next twelve days are going to be really tough for those in the McCain campaign, especially those of you who've stuck with him through thick, thin, thin, thin, think and thin, it's an incredible testament to your willingness to fight for a cause. We need more of you -- and whatever happens in the next 11 days, we ought to try not to forget your dignity.
The Absence of Policy: One of the many fascinating things about Robert Draper's Times Magazine story on the McCain campaign is what isn't included in its account of the attempts to brand (and rebrand, and rebrand) John McCain's candidacy: Namely, any real discussion of policy. From Draper's account, the McCain campaign staff has gone around and around trying to figure out how to sell their candidate - as a fighter! as an experienced leader! as a maverick! etc. - but hardly ever seemed to have spent much time thinking about how these narratives would mesh with or be reinforced by the actual policy agenda the campaign was advancing...
I strongly, strongly oppose what Ambinder says to the staffers of the McCain campaign, for the reasons that Ross Douthat lays out. What we need in America are people who think hard about what a future for this country would be and work hard to elect candidates who will bring that good future into being.
We do not need more careerists--people who work for a candidate because they want the privilege to eat the White House Mess--we need fewer.
We do not need more followers--people who work for a candidate because they think he or she, personally, is a great guy--we need fewer.
At this moment nobody has a clue what policies McCain would follow, on anything, because McCain's preferences on nearly all issues of policy are weak and unstable. All we know about McCain is that he thinks (a) Russians must be confronted with armed force everywhere, (b) American soldiers must never return home in defeat, and (c) he likes to make big bets on poker hands where he has not looked at his own hole cards.
All those still working for the McCain campaign at this point are followers or careerists. They should look at themselves in the mirror hard, and figure out whether they are the kind of people who should play any role in deciding on the future of America.