Steve Chapman

This hostile note is in keeping with the tone struck by the candidate. Several senators, including some in his own party, have complained of his explosive temper, and he has even acknowledged that his hothead reputation has some basis. But today, McCain is advertising it as an asset during a time of economic trouble. He sounds madder than John Edwards on a bad hair day.

"One thing I hear from Americans at every stop is that they're angry," he says. "They're angry. THEY'RE ANGRY." He then lists the things they are angry about, including the failures of Wall Street. "You're angry," he declares, "and I'm angry too." But he sounds more like someone hacked off about trailing in the polls rather than someone infuriated by what he calls "greed, corruption and incompetence."

Part of the problem is that Republicans can't really bring off denunciations of greed. Ordinarily, they treat it, with sound insight, not as a mortal sin but as a powerful natural drive that capitalism harnesses for the benefit of all.

They are more convincing when excoriating governmental failure. This time, that's also a problematic sell, since the failures of the past eight years are generally blamed, fairly or not, on a president who heads McCain's own party.

But the real question McCain's performance raises is this: Assuming Americans are mad, does that mean they are looking for a president who revels in his anger? Right now a lot of people are feeling scared, bewildered and even lost. But rather than seek a leader who shares those feelings, they probably would like one who can alleviate them.

If voters want a president who is angry, McCain may win. If they prefer a president who will remove the causes of their anger, his exhibition of outrage will encourage them to look elsewhere.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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