Cliff May

And soon it will be 30 years since Iran's Revolution. We have no idea how much suffering theocratic fascism will inflict on the world.

But back to more prosaic matters: John McCain did not win the Republican primary -- he did not defeat Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson et al. Rather, each of those campaigns imploded or eroded - and McCain was the last man left standing.

I thought it possible that something similar might happen in the general election. Had the race become a referendum on Obama -- his lack of experience, his links with so many unsavory and radical characters - a majority of Americans might well have decided to at least wait a few years before giving him the keys to Air Force One.

In another era, the mainstream media might have seen it as their duty to probe deeply and reveal to the public as much about Obama as they could. But the days of a fiercely independent, disinterested, tough-but-fair press are over. Too many American journalists have become partisans, propagandists and lackeys. This, also, is a kind of revolution.

In another era - say four years ago -- independent political groups would have focused the public's attention on such issues. One reason that did not happen this time: restrictions on political speech -- gussied up as "campaign finance reform" and championed by none other than McCain.

Those who helped the Swift Boat veterans tell their tales about serving under John Kerry's command were warned by their lawyers that it would cost them more than just money if they were responsible for ads questioning Obama's fitness for office. They'd be served subpoenas and find themselves confronting hostile congressional committees. They might suffer other forms of harassment as well.

Of course, McCain himself could have forced this debate into the public square. But he was either unwilling or unable to do what needed to be done. Though a military man by breeding and training, as a candidate he shot rubber bullets and pulled his punches.

There were other factors, too, enough to fill books, and that will happen. So long as national security was the issue foremost on voters' minds, McCain was a contender. But when the economy went into a tailspin, McCain threw away his advantage. He raced back to Washington in an effort to show he was a work horse, not a show horse. Huddling with the confused and querulous politicians who had caused the crisis did not enhance his image as an elder statesman.

Obama was well-advised to stay on the campaign trail and stay on message, continuing to offer "hope" and to promise "change." Soon now, we'll find out what that really means.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.