Friendship and the candidates

My sympathies to Gloria Neal of Politics West. She's already tired of John McCain's corny phrase "my friends," and there are still 80 days until the election. True enough, as she wrote, those words aren't the deepest, but they convey a lot more genuineness than Obama's glib and empty slogans -- "hope and change" -- "we are the people we've been waiting for" -- and so on through the whole pop-psych repertoire. What I saw in the two candidates' parallel interviews as conducted Saturday night by Rick Warren was a glaring contrast in leadership styles. McCain came over as crisp, direct, commanding, and real. Obama was all syrup and blather and sophistication. He could lead a philosophy seminar, but heaven help us with that fuzzy-minded approach in the White House. To lead our nation in this dangerous world, I'll take Mac any day.

As for friendship, based on what we witnessed in the Saddleback Civil Forum with Warren, which man could you best rely on and trust as a friend, the young opportunist or the old warrior?

With no pretense to objectivity, I'll again say McCain. Duty, honor, loyalty, courage, and unselfishness define the man. He's the one I would want to have my back when things get tough. Ask his friend Everett Alvarez, for whose benefit the weary POW, broken in body but not in spirit, refused early release from the Hanoi Hilton, as we heard at Saturday's forum.

Obama, in contrast -- as columnist David Brooks has observed on the evidence of the Chicagoan's own books -- has always been a sojourner, in but not of whatever setting he happens to be passing through. My hunch is that in the privacy of their hearts, this whole thing is about him and Michelle, not about America the Good and certainly not about you and me, mere audience members that we are.

Loyal and unselfish? Ask Barack's former friend Jeremiah Wright; or for that matter, his own "typical white person" grandmother.

So groan if you want, Gloria. My guy may be unhip. Your guy may have a more magnetic stage presence and a far bigger Facebook friends list. But the people have a pretty good nose for phonies, and I predict that when the "Can I be your friend?" verdict is settled in November, Mac will prove to have the most friends out there in voterland.