Diana West

Except, maybe, for the benefit of -- how to put this? -- challenged conservative leaders. These include former Sen. Fred Thompson, and former Govs. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, who, contradicting everything they ever got us to think they stood for, sort of have endorsed McCain. This may burnish "the maverick" with their conservative bona fides. But it also makes those bona fides look more than a little cheap.

Or maybe they just aren't who we think they are. But does it matter? Perception does seem to be everything. In November, Hayworth was polling neck-in-neck with McCain. After Sarah Superstar held out her coattails to McCain -- who, let's not forget, personally, and through his staff, publicly savaged her -- a January poll showed McCain leading Hayworth by 22 points.

So why is McCain running scared? Because he is running scared. At least that's one conclusion to draw from an initial Web ad released by the McCain campaign that stoops to smear Hayworth as a conspiracy nut unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate for having the audacity -- I call it common sense and a little grit -- to point out as a radio host that "questions will remain" until our commander in chief releases the paperwork associated with his birth currently under state seal in Hawaii.

Questions will remain, and do remain, and despite Hayworth spokesman Jason Rose's craven dodge: "Questions were raised on the air. They have been answered." No, they haven't been answered. And that's true largely because of John McCain.

Remember when presidential candidate McCain's own natural-born creds came under question because he was born in the Canal Zone? Naturally, he released his paperwork. He should have then called on his opponent, Barack Obama, to do the same -- naturally. Such leadership would have dispelled all corrosive doubts raised and perpetuated not by "conspiracy nuts" but by the unprecedented lockdown on simple Obama identification -- birth certificate, education transcripts and more -- by the Obama machine, fueled and oiled by a compliant media.

But he didn't -- another reason McCain shouldn't have become president. Now, if conservatives could just retire him from the U.S. Senate.

Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).