It's no surprise, while the Democrats do battle, that John McCain is using the down time to go on an "I'm not George W. Bush" tour around the country.
We've got a very unpopular Republican president and this translates into heavy baggage for Sen. McCain to unload.
The latest Gallup poll reports President Bush's disapproval rating, 69 percent, as the highest presidential disapproval the organization has ever recorded. Even the beleaguered Nixon peaked at 66 percent disapproval in August of 1974 before he resigned.
But I'm straining to see or hear the new market differentiated Republican product as McCain makes his "forgotten places" tour around the country.
The Washington Post has called this Version 2.0 of Bush compassionate conservatism. From what I see so far, they're right.
In Kentucky, Sen. McCain talked about poverty and Lyndon Johnson's expensive and failed war on it. He pointed out that Johnson's mistake was to think that government could provide the answer to poverty. He then proposed his own new government poverty program. Special tax breaks for telecom companies to deliver Internet service to poor communities.
Then on to New Orleans to apologize for the failure of leadership at the "top" during the Katrina debacle.
And the point? To confirm to liberals and blacks that yes, Republicans and conservatives are racists, indifferent to poverty, this explaining what happened during Katrina?
Congress issued a report on Hurricane Katrina called "A Failure of Initiative" showing poor performance at all levels of government -- local, state, and federal. However, the primary responsibility for emergency action is at the local and state level. The abysmal performance of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco during Katrina is well documented.
Rather than disputing the simpleminded charges about what went wrong (remember Spike Lee's footage showing Condoleezza Rice shopping for shoes while New Orleans was sinking?), President Bush gave a televised address from New Orleans paying credence to it all.
So, rather than distinguishing himself from George Bush, John McCain seems to be joining a long tradition of Republicans who think that the way to win the votes of poor and working class Americans is to legitimize liberal distortions.
Whether this comes from a confused and misplaced compassion, or confused and misplaced politics, the result is that the poor get no leadership, stay poor and the poor and blacks vote for Democrats in as large number as ever. The only winners in the whole equation are liberal Democrat politicians.
Along with George Bush's dismal approval ratings, Sen. McCain also has reason to be concerned about the Gallup polling this week on Iraq.
Sixty-three percent of Americans now say that it was a "mistake to have sent troops into Iraq." This almost triples the 23 percent that felt it was a mistake five years ago.
According to Gallup, this is the highest "mistake" rating they have ever recorded for a conflict involving U.S. troops. The highest it every got during the Vietnam War was 61 percent.
Making small talk the other day with a young maintenance man hanging a fixture in my office, he made clear to me that he wasn't much into politics. Then he added that all he cared about was that we get out of the war and that he can afford to put gas in his truck.
My young nephew, my sister's only son, called me the other day to tell me he's on his way to Iraq with his army unit. She's concerned. I'm concerned.
There simply is a disconnect between the kind of pabulum that Sen. McCain served up to Americans this last week and asking them to push on in this difficult and increasingly confusing war.
How can we provide moral leadership abroad, asking our parents and children to make the sacrifices that this demands, if we have a president who will not provide that same moral leadership at home? I'm talking about bold leadership regarding limited government and traditional values.
Simply stated, if John McCain wants to avoid the Bush 3 label, he should establish himself as a conservative.