After a weekend of rampant speculation that Monday would produce yet another incarnation of John McCain, the only comeback from his campaign appears to be the text of his 2004 speech to the Republican National Convention. McCain's latest transformation - after McCain the Goldwater disciple, the Reagan footsoldier, the Maverick, the neocon, the experienced one, the change agent, Maverick II and, most recently, the race-baiting smear merchant - is once again that of "the fighter." And if you think you've heard this one before, it's because you did back in 2004, when John McCain was fighting for George W. Bush.
Don't give up hope. Be strong. Have courage. And fight.
Fight for a new direction for our country.
Fight for what's right for America.
Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, infighting and selfishness in Washington.
Fight to get our economy out of the ditch and back in the lead.
Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future.
Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.
Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.
Now, let's go win this election and get this country moving again."
But for a man desperate to distance himself from the current, historically unpopular occupant of the White House, John McCain made a poor choice in relying on virtually the same words he used to ask Americans to fight for George W. Bush in 2004.
"Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity.
We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible.
Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong.
Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight.
We're Americans, and we'll never surrender. They will.
Fast forward to St. Paul in September 2008 and McCain went back to the well, only this time on his own behalf. Hoping to reanimate his comatose address, McCain again called on viewers to stand and fight (beginning at roughly 50:00):
"Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.
Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight.
Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up.
We never quit.
We never hide from history. We make history."
Of course, McCain's three speeches differed in many important regards. But on one point there is simply no comparison. As McCain put it in 2004 but was sure not repeat this week:
"President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration."
As John McCain once famously said, "that's not change we can believe in."
(Crossposted at Perrspectives.)