Kathleen Parker

Fair enough. But could there possibly be one living soul left who doesn't yet know what Obama and Clinton have in mind? And if so, should he be voting? Unclear -- and unfathomable -- is why McCain, the elder statesman, felt compelled to play along. It's not as though his tough-guy bona fides needed burnishing.

Looking more like Popeye freshly fortified with spinach than a commander in chief, McCain traded his true hero for a pretend wise guy, punching the air with a pit-bull snarl.

"Looks like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to settle their differences in the ring. Well, that's fine with me. But lemme tell ya: If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man. Come November, it'll be game over."

Yeeeeeeeeehhhhhhh. You tell 'em Mac.

OK, it's all for fun and nobody got hurt. But on the same day that these aspiring commanders in chief were smooching up wrestling fans, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was ripping the U.S. Air Force and America's generals for not doing enough to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few days earlier, a former senior Pentagon official called the war in Iraq "a major debacle."

McCain -- as the only war veteran of the three and the candidate most committed to staying in Iraq -- should have opted out of the silliness instead of squandering his gravitas. He might not have known that Gates was going to part the curtains on America's military dysfunction, but those who intend to lead a nation at war can't hope for dependable timing.

Clinton's ad posed the correct question: Whom are voters going to trust to be commander in chief? In this too-long campaign, in which Hill-Rod, Cookie and Slugger seek to out-cute each other for the connoisseurs of human mauling machines, the answer is increasingly less clear.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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