John McCain has an opportunity to show other Republican candidates how it can be done

The early fears of facing Barack Obama in the general election were based in part on the idea that the young and inexperienced U.S. Senator from Illinois would use his melodious voice and dazzling charisma to cause the masses to shut off their brains.

Fortunately there have been sounds emanating from other sources in recent days that give hope for a John McCain victory in November.

The McCain camp needs to articulate first principles and force Americans out of their Obamamania trance and back into rational thought. What McCain has to do, in part, is what Thomas Jefferson did when he wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The object of the Declaration, Jefferson said almost half a century after he authored it, was not –

“…to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [were] compelled to take.”

John McCain is off to a good start in making a straightforward argument, saying this on the night of his victories in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. primaries:

“To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.”

The youthful idealists chant “yes we can” along with Obama at his rallies. They hold signs that say “change we can believe in.” McCain says their “change” isn’t a new approach to governing at all, but instead represents –

“…a political orthodoxy that insists the solution to government’s failures is to simply make it bigger. They will appeal to our dreams of a better future for ourselves, our families and our country, but they would take from us more of the wealth we have earned to build those dreams and assure us that government is better able than we are to make decisions about our future for us.”

When it comes to the Democrats’ view of the world, McCain says that Obama –

“…will paint a picture of the world in which America’s mistakes are a greater threat to our security than the malevolent intentions of an enemy that despises us and our ideals; a world that can be made safer and more peaceful by placating our implacable foes and breaking faith with allies and the millions of people in this world for whom America, and the global progress of our ideals, has long been “the last, best hope of earth.”

Not a bad start for Maverick John. McCain and his team have a lot of other good minds to draw upon for ideas on how to outline the contrast between him and his Democrat opponent.  (Obviously this contrast would’ve been easier to draw had the Denny Hastert led Congress stuck to Republican principles while it held power.

When it comes to the economy, the Cato Institute’s Alan Reynolds says that –

“Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both propose to ‘turn the economy around’ in a novel way – by raising tax rates on small businesses, working couples and stockholders in general, including retirees.

Of course, their plans are also meant to raise revenue for their various hundreds of billions in new spending – but the move would fall flat on that front, too.”

That’s not going to be an easy sell, even for a salesman with Obama’s rhetorical skills.

Larry Kudlow writes in Real Clear Politics that –

“Senator Barack Obama is very gloomy about America, and he’s aligning himself with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in hopes of coming to the nation’s rescue. His proposal? Big-government planning, spending, and taxing — exactly what the nation and the stock market doesn’t want to hear…

Obama wants you to believe that America is in trouble, and that it can only be cured with a big lurch to the left. Take from the rich and give to the non-rich. Redistribute income and wealth. It’s an age-old recipe for economic disaster. It completely ignores incentives for entrepreneurs, small family-owned businesses, and investors. You can’t have capitalism without capital. But Obama would penalize capital, be it capital from corporations or investors. This will only harm, and not advance, opportunities for middle-class workers.”

Of course more people would instinctively know this if Republican politicians had been as good at communicating substance all these years as Obama is at communicating platitudes.

One of Obama’s big themes is unity. Voters who can get past vapid emotionalism will consider the words of health care reform expert Grace-Marie Turner:

“The 2008 election will provide a clear contrast between two different philosophies of health reform, as I described in my recent Wall Street Journal piece. It deceives voters to pretend that here is a middle ground between a much expanded role for government in our health sector and a properly functioning, patient-centered free market.”

Uh-oh, no middle ground. Sounds like those starry-eyed and fainting young people will be forced to buck up and face the real world of policy disagreement and debate after all.

There’s more and more being written, as well, about the spell Obama is casting on the nation. Even some members of the political left are starting to question the sanity of it. Here’s how one writer put it:

ABC’s Jake Tapper notes the “Helter-Skelter cultish qualities” of “Obama worshipers,” what Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times calls “the Cult of Obama.” Obama’s Super Tuesday victory speech was a classic of the genre. Its effect was electric, eliciting a rhythmic fervor in the audience – to such rhetorical nonsense as “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (Cheers, applause.) We are the change that we seek.”

That was too much for Time’s Joe Klein. “There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism … ,” he wrote. “The message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is.”

Barack Obama’s “Human Hallmark Card” act is working for now. But the power of that act is waning, and those desiring a hard-boiled policy debate just might get it after all during this election year.

To rally his base, McCain is being forced to convince conservatives that he’s with them on most of the big issues. His rhetoric sounds good so far on the important principles that must be outlined in any campaign.

If his staff stays well-read and feeds off of the thinking pundits, the national debate could well take a turn in a very positive direction.

Now that’s a change I can believe in.