Mouthing Maverickosity is Losing Its Effectiveness

John McCain is trying to reclaim his inner maverick, boasting that he doesn’t give a rat’s pa-tootey what people think. He’s all about being bold, being right, being…non-poll-driven.

All week long, McCain has been pushing hard on the notion the current surge strategy in Iraq was a crucial test in judgment.

McCain says all the same stuff we’ve been tuning out for seven years and counting, and expects it to resonate anew

In 2007, McCain said, “We both knew the safe political choice was to support some sort of retreat.”

“Many observers said my approach would end my hopes of becoming President,” he said. “My choice was not smart politics. It didn’t test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls…”

McCain says history proved him right.

“In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat but instead are on the road to victory,” McCain said.

Yeah, we’re pursuing the path to prevailing, not punching in the gate code to privation; we are riding the train to triumph, not ringing the doorbell to reversal. Or something like that.

The striking thing here is how much McCain mimics his model. When 10 million Americans took to the streets to protest George Bush’s planned invasion of Iraq, the president quite openly said he didn’t care what his constituents thought.

“Size of protest — it’s like deciding, well, I’m going to decide policy based upon a focus group,” Mr. Bush said in response to a reporter’s question at the White House.

And we couldn’t do that, now could we? It turned out that was precisely how the Decider did it, but it took some research to prove it.

Bush’s principal pollster, Jan van Lohuizen, and his focus-group guru, Fred Steeper, are the best-kept secrets in Washington. Both are respected but low-key, proficient but tight-lipped, and, unlike such larger-than-life Clinton pollsters as Dick Morris and Mark Penn, happy to remain anonymous. They toil in the background, poll-testing the words and phrases the president uses to sell his policies to an often-skeptical public…

McCain grows more like George Bush, the man he tries to emulate at every opportunity, who stole the 2000 election from him with a combination of superior messaging and slurs, every day. He says all the same stuff we’ve been tuning out for seven years and counting, and expects it to resonate anew. For some, it does just that. McCain seems to be betting that the easily fooled still outnumber the weary wary. After all these years of Bush, I think he’s wrong.

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