I should have loved John McCain’s speech. He promised an administration focused on good ideas rather than partisan ideas. He promised to appoint Democrats and independents to his cabinet. He reminded us of all the special interests and entrenched powers he’s taken on while in Washington. He blasted his own party for its recent corruption. He asked us to give of ourselves to better our country.

If McCain had been that McCain for the last six months, his speech last night would have sealed the deal. I’d be sticking the bumper sticker on my car this morning. But he very much hasn’t been that McCain. He’s been a panderer and a partisan and a petulant old man. The maverick we saw speak last night is not the man we’ve seen running for president.

So what am I supposed to think now?

When I was actively supporting McCain earlier this year, I frequently made the point that while Barack Obama talks beautifully about bridging divides, McCain has an entire career of doing the hard and often thankless work of finding common ground. While Obama says he will bring change and yet offers a slim record showing little more than a string of partisan votes, McCain says he’ll bring change and backs that up with a record of bucking his own party and going after a slew of special interests and corrupt powers.

No, McCain’s record is not without its warts. He has some distasteful associations with lobbyists and he’s made some poor decisions. But at least I know (or once thought I knew) he will not simply deliver one party’s policies no matter the situation. He will have the brains and the guts to reach for what he believes is the best solution, regardless of who that pisses off. I still have no reason to believe Obama will give us anything but the usual Democratic policy initiatives (as much as I’d like to believe otherwise).

I would pull the lever (or touch the screen) for McCain with little reservation if I thought we were getting the maverick version. Unfortunately, I’m not sure who we’d get. At least he showed last night that the McCain I admire is still alive and kicking. Now let’s see if that McCain is the one who shows up for the debates and the rest of the campaign.

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