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New York Times Death Spiral Watch (Nick Kristof Edition)

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Nick Kristof says, you see, that McCain's lack of principles demonstrates how highly principled McCain is:

The World's Worst Panderer: Even for those of us who shudder at many of John McCain's positions, there is something refreshing about a man who wins so many votes.... What sets Senator McCain apart isn't so much his physical courage in Vietnam; many of his fellow prisoners also showed immense bravery under torture. But the United States Congress tends to be a courage-free zone.... It's a pleasure to see candidates who don't just throw red meat to the crowds but try to offer vegetarian options.

Consider torture. There was nary a vote in the Republican primary to be gained by opposing the waterboarding.... But Mr. McCain led the battle against Dick Cheney on torture, even though it cost him donations, votes and endorsements.... [T]hat marked Mr. McCain's most heroic moment.... Then there's immigration... he patiently explained that it's a complex problem.... For years, Mr. McCain denounced ethanol subsidies....

This year he claimed that he liked ethanol after all, but he was so manifestly insincere and incompetent in this pandering that the episode was less contemptible than amusing....

Granted, his pride in "straight talk" may arise partly because he is an execrable actor. When he does try double-talk, he looks so guilty and uncomfortable that he convinces nobody.... It is true that Mr. McCain sometimes weaves and bobs. With the arrival of the primaries, he has moved to the right on social issues and pretended to be more conservative than he is. On Wednesday, for example, he retreated on his brave stand on torture.... His most famous pander came in 2000, when, after earlier denouncing the Confederate flag as a "symbol of racism," he embraced it as "a symbol of heritage."... Mr. McCain truly has principles that he bends or breaks out of desperation and with distaste. That's preferable to politicians who are congenital invertebrates....

Mr. McCain himself would probably acknowledge every one of these flaws, and he is a rare politician with the courage not just to follow the crowd but also to lead it. It is refreshing to see that courage rewarded by voters.

John McCain: "Don't know much about economics"... 100 years in Iraq... filthy jokes about teenage girls... bomb, bomb, bomb Iran... foul temper... flip-flops... dumping his first wife when she was in a wheelchair for someone able-bodied, prettier, and richer...

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