This weekend's NYT Magazine piece on the making and remaking of John McCain reads like a Greek tragedy. "John McCain’s biography has been the stuff of legend for nearly a decade," the lengthy piece points out. "And yet Schmidt and his fellow strategists have had difficulty explaining how America will be better off for electing (as opposed to simply admiring) a stubborn patriot." Throughout the magazine piece, a litany of narratives are identified.
- The Heroic Fighters vs. the Quitters: Steve Schmidt, McCain's top adviser, encouraged McCain to denounce the Democrats for advocating a withdrawal of troops — a kind of surrender in the face of victory. Thus did Schmidt initiate the No Surrender Tour late in the summer of 2007.
- Country-First Deal Maker vs. Nonpartisan Pretender: The campaign was in the throes of an identity crisis by June 24, when a number of senior strategists gathered at 9:30 a.m. in a conference room of McCain’s campaign headquarters in Arlington. As one participant said later, the meeting was convened “because we still couldn’t answer the question, ‘Why elect John McCain?'"
- Leader vs. Celebrity: Eventually, it was Schmidt who blurted out the epiphany concerning Obama. “Face it, gentlemen,” he said. “He’s being treated like a celebrity.” The others grasped the concept — a celebrity like J-Lo! or Britney! — and exultation overtook the room.
- Team of Mavericks vs. Old-Style Washington: Well before McCain made his selection, his chief strategist and his campaign manager both concluded that Sarah Palin would be the most dynamic pick.
- John McCain vs. John McCain: The flipside to John McCain’s metanarrative of personal valor has always been palpable self-righteousness. In this campaign, his sense of integrity has been doubly offended.
- The Fighter (Again) vs. the Tax-and-Spend Liberal: McCain was once again a warrior — only more upbeat, more respectful of his opponent, more empathetic to suffering Americans and far more disapproving of the president.
If McCain pulls this off, the author may have re-write the story. Check out the whole drama if you need some weekend reading!