THE DAY AFTER….I’ve never been a big John McCain fan. Even in the 2001-2004 era, when he was flirting with the left and opposing the most neanderthal elements in his own party, I didn’t really warm to him.

To me, he mostly seemed like a standard issue conservative who had discovered a good schtick during the 2000 campaign and was milking it for all it was worth, pandering to a press and pundit corps that, he had learned, routinely goes gaga over politicians who supposedly reject the shibboleths of both parties and simply speak their mind.

I never really bought it, but at the same time, politics is politics. McCain was hardly the first guy to work hard on his public persona, and, ideological disputes aside, he always struck me as a basically decent person. A little too self-righteous for my taste, but decent.

But now I’m watching him in 2008, his desperation for the presidency driving him to conduct a campaign that’s carefully but relentlessly testing ever more contemptible depths of squalor in its attacks on Barack Obama (“he made time to go to the gym but cancelled a visit with wounded troops” is just the latest), and I wonder how he’s going to feel when it’s all over. Not only will he lose the election, but he’s going to wake up one morning and realize that he abandoned his dignity in the process. That’s obviously something that’s important to him, and even for someone who was never much of a fan, it’s kind of sad to watch him give it up so readily.

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