Noam and Jon reignite their previous debate over whether McCain benefits when media coverage focuses on Obama as a flip-flopper.  Noam linked to a National Review Online article supporting his point: rather than reinforcing that Obama is just a typical politician, McCain would actually gain more by arguing that Obama's views are outside mainstream America. In the comments, tomhilliard attacked NRO's views of what the public wants:

This is what passes for a "smart piece" in the conservative media? McCain has already positioned himself as a blue-collar tough guy. He has already attacked Obama for being a left-winger, to the point of refusing to deny that he might be a socialist. He spent $16 million on ads in June, triple Obama's buy. It was mostly positive, but it's standard campaign strategy to use positive ads to define yourself and then unleash the negative stuff.  That's starting to hit the airwaves now, and NRO's pundits can sleep peacefully at night knowing that some version of the 3 AM ad is almost certainly locked and loaded. Do Lowry and Ponnuru think McCain's campaign staff slept thru the Democratic primary?

But I really got a chuckle out of NRO's claim that the public doesn't want "left-wing" change, so they must be educated that they can't afford Obama. First, this assertion doesn't really address the opinion polling that shows a definite liberal tilt on most major issues at play in 2008. The CW should be questioned, but it's not based on a Drudge headline. Second, this whole line of argument eliminates any claim to independence on the part of the National Review. I mean, do they really believe that Obama is campaigning on a platform of "left-wing" change so extreme the McCain platform actually makes more sense?  

Salam/Douthat and David Brooks have at least established a posture of intellectual independence and begun questioning some basic assumptions that led the conservative movement into the hole that it's in now. Lowry and Ponnuru seem determined to keep digging.

PS Yes, I am a concern troll.