In his Wall Street Journal column today offering free (though surely not unsolicited) advice to John McCain, Karl Rove writes that the Republican nominee needs to get more intimate with voters. Maybe he does. But I had to laugh when I read this assertion by Rove:
Mr. McCain is the most private person to run for president since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. He needs to share (or allow others to share) more about him, especially his faith. The McCain and Obama campaigns are mirror opposites. Mr. McCain offers little biography, while Mr. Obama is nothing but.
Say again, Karl? I have keen memories from the 2000 primaries of Rove and other Bush aides complaining that McCain was all biography and little else, that he’d achieved little in Washington and was running solely on his war heroism.
I guess that was then.
It’s true that McCain is not the kind of politician to talk about “what’s on my heart” – the way George W. Bush did (making it sound like a tumor or something) – or to declare that Jesus is his favorite philosopher. But McCain did, in Faith of My Fathers, write about his shame-driven attempts to commit suicide after “confessing” to his North Vietnamese captors. Talk about getting intimate!
In the new print issue of Time, McCain actually writes about his faith. He begins by talking about how his father would beg God to show mercy on his POW son. And then he re-tells an anecdote from his POW days of a kind-hearted guard who shared his Christian faith. Again, heavy on the bio! (Sen. Obama has a companion essay).
Two of McCain’s best-selling books are largely autobiographical. Many of his campaign ads have featured his biography. While it’s fair to say McCain resists talking about his personal faith and his immediate family, biography has been essential to his political identity, and to this campaign.