Is McCain Mean Enough?

A poster on washingtonpost.com raises a point that I've been thinking about: "McCain is too decent (and has been on the wrong end ...
by | February 19, 2008

A poster on washingtonpost.com raises a point that I've been thinking about:

"McCain is too decent (and has been on the wrong end of too much negative campaigning) to be as tough on Obama as Clinton has been."

Is this so? In his victory speech Tuesday night, McCain was already taking on Obama, if not by name:

"In a slap at Obama's style and public record, McCain promised to deliver far more than just an 'eloquent but empty call for change' and the 'confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate.'"

But it is the case that McCain was wounded deeply by the unfair and highly negative attacks launched against him by George W. Bush and other campaigners during the South Carolina primary of 2000. And it's worth remembering that McCain felt that his inclusion as one of the "Keating Five," in which he was accused of improperly interceding on behalf of a crooked savings and loan figure, was a worse torment than the torture he underwent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

There's no doubt that McCain can be mean. Josh Marshall reminds us that he's said unkind things about Obama in the past even when trying to make amends.

Still, I wonder whether McCain will be a take no prisoners kind of guy against Obama -- assuming that Hillary Clinton doesn't stage some kind of miracle comeback. One of the lines that the Clinton people have been trotting out, of course, is that Republicans will eat Obama alive, while she's already proven herself tough enough to take whatever they can dish out.

Somehow, it's not at all hard to imagine McCain and other Republicans continuing to play rough with Clinton, even though those two senators are friendly.

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