My first reaction to this Adam Nagourney dispatch from Iowa: "Gee, how sad."
[John] McCain, who has been treated for skin cancer, was clearly concerned about being exposed to so much sun as he walked down the scorching main route of the fair grounds. He stepped into the shadows when someone asked him to autograph a book. When it came time to speak as part of the soapbox series sponsored by the Des Moines Register, he asked if he could stand in the shadow, to keep out of the sun. He kept his talk to just 11 minutes, which his audience, some of them sitting on bales of hay, no doubt appreciated.
"You better be careful in this sun," Mr. McCain told one fair-skinned woman after shaking her hand.
"I have sunscreen on," she replied.
"I wish I did," he said.
Nagourney also describes McCain as "wilting." Really, all that's missing is a lonesome cartoon trombone and a well-placed banana peel.
But here was my second reaction: "Where was this coverage when McCain was riding high?" I'd seen McCain in the flesh a few times during his year-long stint as the de facto GOP nominee and watched him look alternately tough and brittle. Literally brittle, like Robert Patrick yanking his way out of the liquid nitrogen in T2. You heard gossip about McCain's visible aging but it didn't come across so much in reports. This Nagourney report from last year has McCain looking like John Wayne, taking a helicopter to a NASCAR event, etc.
McCain was the beneficiary of some "kiss up, kick down" media coverage and narratives. We saw the same thing with George Allen last year. We didn't hear so much about Allen's IQ and goofy habits when he was a strong contender for the presidency: We heard that after he started tumbling downhill. It seems like these revelations are happening in the wrong order.
It's only two months to the day 'til Matt Welch's book on McCain will be released.