On the eve of John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in St. Paul, Thursday's front-page delivered a mixed profile of McCain by Mark Leibovich and David Kirkpatrick, "Serving a Cause and a Desire to Succeed ."
His critics assert that the McCain of 2008 is not the McCain of 2000, or even 2007. He has surrounded himself with former protégés of Karl Rove, whose tactics he once denounced, embraced positions he once repudiated and initiated a series of attacks on Senator Barack Obama's patriotism that some say resemble the rhetorical rough-housing he regretted eight years ago. "Bring Back the Real McCain!" the cover of The Economist magazine implored last week.
His loyalists, though, say such complaints hold Mr. McCain to the standard of a nostalgic mythology that grew up around his last campaign, overlooking the tough competitor that was there all along.
The Times and the rest of the media have always been vague on exactly how the Republicans are attacking Obama's patriotism. It's a common charge at the Times, one the paper has yet to back up with examples.