John McCain, the Accessible Underdog of 2000, Has Been Replaced by John McCain, the Slimy Attack Dog of 2008

The happy warrior of 2000 has been replaced by a sleazy political attacker in the 2008 elections.

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In the dog days of August, neither presidential campaign has distinguished itself with positive or useful information for voters. But it is especially sad to see GOP Sen. John McCain forget what made him such a popular figure in the 2000 race.

McCain's television ads have been disingenuous and downright silly. The fellow who thought up the so-called celebrity ad by comparing Sen. Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears should be summarily fired. The charge that Obama is responsible for high gas prices is ridiculous, and McCain surely knows it. That one is a downright lie.

Where is the McCain who bravely took on then Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, thereby challenging the Republican establishment? McCain took the high road and Bush, led by his mastermind Karl Rove, took the disgusting low road.

In that campaign, McCain chatted nonstop and on the record with reporters aboard the Straight Talk Express. He was an accessible warrior who seemed to be enjoying himself as the underdog and party maverick.

Recently, McCain has taken to avoiding reporters. They have to shout questions like Sam Donaldson of ABC did back in the Reagan era. Reagan answered only questions he wanted to hear.

Worse, McCain appears to be listening now to associates of Rove. Nothing is too slimy for this crowd to use in a close campaign as this one promises to be in November.

Obama has been quick to respond so far to McCain's attacks. He and his staff have learned that Al Gore and John Kerry paid the price of defeat by dilly-dallying on Rove-directed assaults.

The McCain of 2000 has allowed himself to be morphed into an attack dog in 2008. The earlier candidate was an admirable challenger. The McCain of 2008 is just another say-anything, do-anything-to-win politician.

As someone who got to know a courageous McCain after his return from the Hanoi Hilton and long and harsh imprisonment, it is not a pretty picture.