McCain's virtues require a contrast in order to stand out. His strength, integrity, solidity and dependability all are essentially passive virtues, which shine only by contrast with others. Now that Obama and Hillary are offering images that are much weaker, less honest, and less solid and dependable, good old John McCain looks that much better as he tours Iraq and Israel while the Democrats rip one another apart.
It took Nixon for us to appreciate Jimmy Carter's simple honesty. It took Clinton and Monica for us to value George W. Bush's personal character. And it takes the unseemly battle among the Democrats for us to give John McCain his due.
When Obama faces McCain in the general election (not if but when) the legacy of the Wright scandal will not be to question Obama's patriotism or love of America. It wil l be to ask if he has the right stuff (pardon the pun).
The largest gap between McCain and Obama in the most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll was on the trait of leadership. Asked if each man was a “strong, decisive leader,” 69 percent felt that the description fit McCain while only 56 percent thought it would apply to Obama. (61 percent said it of Hillary.) Obama has looked weak handling the Rev. Wright controversy. His labored explanation of why he attacks the sin but loves the sinner comes across as elegant but, at the same time, feeble. Obama's reluctance to trade punches with his opponents makes us wonder if he could trade them with bin Laden or Ahmadinejad. We have no doubt that McCain would gladly come to blows and would represent us well, but about Obama we are not so sure.