"McCain has spent weeks overtly linking Obama to "terrorists" and "Palestinian donors" and posing the sinister question: "Who is the real Barack Obama"? ... But McCain's vaunted principles and honor make him absolutely hate these tactics and he vehemently does not want to win this way."
"The national press corps continues to revere John McCain despite what is widely acknowledged to be the toxic and ugly campaign he's running because they still think that this campaign is being run despite McCain's character and wishes, not because of them."
Meanwhile, David Brooks, Thinking about McCain, puts the other side.
"Nonetheless, when people try to tell me that the McCain on the campaign trail is the real McCain and the one who came before was fake, I just say, baloney. I saw him. A half-century of evidence is there."
There are three related issues here. Firstly, it is a good POSIWID principle to judge people not by their words but by their deeds. Greenwald quotes the New Testament: "By their fruits ye shall know them". Secondly, the American people are being asked to decide who shall be President. If McCain can't get his hand-picked campaign staff to respect his character and wishes, what chance has he got for getting the White House staff and the world to take him seriously?
The third issue is the profound undecidability of character. If we judge from his deeds, we get a different picture of the man according to which deeds we focus on. McCain is a more contradictory character than most politicians, and therefore a lot more interesting. (His running mate is also a profoundly contradictory character, as I discussed in Political Double Acts.)
So neither words nor deeds can give us a deep and thorough understanding of the Real McCain (or for that matter the Real Palin). Unless you leave out a good half of the evidence, it seems to be almost impossible to come to a rational left-brain assessment of the ticket. But maybe that's the point.