America got a peek at the fiscally conservative McCain in July, when, in discussing Social Security reform, he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he was "a supporter of sitting down together and putting everything on the table" -- presumably even a tax increase. After tax foes pounced, Camp McCain took a tax increase off the table.
This is a shame. No one wants to pay higher taxes, but you won't see Social Security reform without a package that includes both higher taxes and fewer benefits. McCain knows that.
Thursday night McCain pledged to "stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix." On that score, his speech was thin, and the campaign theme, "country first," rang hollow.
McCain told the crowd "to serve a cause greater than yourself." But without giving up the GOP tax cuts?
OK, on the stump he is no maverick.
But you've also seen what Fred Thompson called McCain's mixture of "rebellion and honor," when the maverick carried his own luggage on the campaign trail after the experts pronounced his campaign over. You saw it Thursday night, when he faulted both parties for overly large government.
As for the term "maverick," McCain noted, "What it really means is, I understand who I work for."