By almost any accounting, the past few days have been calamitous for John McCain. But not according to Roger Simon of the Politico. While McCain's transparently cynical ploy to play hero in the Wall Street bailout drama was widely derided as a stunt, Simon on Thursday insisted "it isn't as dumb or as desperate as it looks." Then as polls revealed American voters saw Barack Obama as the clear winner of Friday's generally even debate, Simon instead announced "the Mac is back."
Simon's hagiographic treatment of McCain didn't start this week. After the Republican convention earlier this month, Simon regurgitated the talking points emanating from McCain Central:
John McCain is a maverick who has now done what mavericks almost never do: win. And now he must lead a party while maintaining his independence from it.
It's a dilemma, but McCain attempted to resolve it by facing it head on. "I don't work for a party," he said. "I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."
Then as the economic crisis threatened to undermine the Republican's campaign, Simon praised McCain for "shooting craps" in trying to appropriate the Wall Street meltdown for his own political purposes:
John McCain is now shooting craps with his presidential campaign. It is high risk. But all he needs is a little luck to pull off his current gamble.
McCain has suspended his campaign to work on a solution for the nation's financial meltdown, and he has threatened to pull out of the first presidential debate scheduled for Friday unless Congress takes action by then.
McCain has been attacked from all sides for doing this, but it isn't as dumb or as desperate as it looks.
Then came Friday's debate.
While CNN and CBS post-event surveys showed a marked advantage for Obama among undecided viewers, commentators across the political spectrum scoffed at McCain's childish refusal to look his opponent in the eye. But for Politico's fawning Simon, McCain's victory was clear, his churlishness a positive:
John McCain was very lucky that he decided to show up for the first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss., Friday night. Because he gave one of his strongest debate performances ever.↓ Story continues below ↓
While Barack Obama repeatedly tried to link McCain to the very unpopular George W. Bush, Bush's name will not be on the ballot in November and McCain's will.
And McCain not only found a central theme but hit on it repeatedly. Obama is inexperienced, naive, and just doesn't understand things, McCain said...
...McCain seemed to be enjoying himself. He smiled a lot, mostly when Obama was talking, though his smile was really more like a smirk.
Simon started his laudatory piece on McCain's gamble Thursday by explaining, "I have watched John McCain shoot craps for hours" and that "craps is his favorite casino game." Sadly for John McCain and Roger Simon, Sunday's New York Times featured an article which began with an almost identical description of McCain's gambler past. That story, which may well dominate discussion on Monday, was titled, "McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry."
In the recent teen film Superbad, a young nerd hopes to obtain alcohol and girls with a comically bogus driver's license identifying him only as "McLovin." This past week, Roger Simon offered a similarly feeble impression of a journalist. McLovin, indeed.
UPDATE: The Times' Frank Rich provides a compare-and-contrast with Simon on McCain's pathetic posturing.
(This piece was crossposted from Perrspectives.)