OBAMA'S SELF-PROFILE IN COURAGE
John McCain had a good night during Saturday's joint appearance with Pastor Rick Warren, especially when he and Barack Obama were separately asked to cite examples when each "went against party loyalty and maybe even against your own best interest for the good of America.
"Mr. McCain said he had "a long list" and provided specifics from global warming to runaway spending under a Republican Congress.
Barack Obama offered only one answer: "Well, I'll give you an example that in fact I worked with John McCain on," Mr. Obama said, "and that was the issue of campaign ethics reform and finance reform."
Mr. Obama may want to think carefully before trying that line in too many future debates. While it's true he briefly teamed up with Mr. McCain on rewriting a Congressional ethics bill, their alliance didn't last long. Back in February 2006, Mr. Obama wrote to Mr. McCain that he was declining to join a bipartisan task force and was instead signing onto the Democratic leadership's ethics bill.
Mr. McCain responded with a harsh note accusing Mr. Obama of retreating into "self-interested partisan posturing." Mr. McCain concluded his letter: "I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances [of cooperation] as typical gloss." In the end, both men found a way to kiss and make up, and both found reasons to oppose the final ethics bill.
But Mr. Obama is now the one citing work on a relatively minor ethics bill as an example of his unself-interested pursuit of the national good. The actual history isn't so clear and draws an unfortunate contrast with Mr. McCain's well-known independence from party orthodoxy. A shortage of examples of him breaking with his party's line remains one of Mr. Obama's big vulnerabilities.
writing in today's Wall Street Journal's POLITICAL DIARY ONLINE