The paper's chief political reporter found Sen. John McCain, to have, in the words of his story's text box, "Fewer winks and wry smiles, more sarcasm and anger" since losing to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race.
The Republican Party's leadership vacuum has given Mr. McCain an opening, and he is charging through it, tacking right on some issues and loudly embroiling himself in battles with the White House and Democratic leaders over health care, stimulus spending, foreign policy and the style of the Obama presidency.
He is more visible now than at any time since the end of his presidential campaign.
"Let's do what the president said last October a year ago," Mr. McCain said the other day at one of what has become a geyser of appearances on the Senate floor, in Capitol hallways and at news conferences. "Let's all sit down together, Republicans and Democrats, with C-Span in the room, and negotiate so that the American people can see what's going on here."
If Mr. McCain has had a history of being a happy warrior, that is not the phrase used by many of his friends to describe his demeanor these days. There are few glimpses of the winks, wry smiles and one-liners that were once an integral part of his character. More typically, his remarks are tinged with sarcasm or anger, delivered with a wave of the arm or both hands chopping through the air, like those he delivered Friday, when he declared that a report on Medicare benefits "should put a dagger in the heart of the Reid bill."
Those traits have always been part of McCain's personality - it's just that the Times' emphasis on them seems to ebb and flow based on whether McCain's temper is trained on his fellow Republicans or Democrats. The Times didn't much mind McCain's opposition to a president in the early days of the Bush administration, when, as Nagourney noted, he voted against Bush's first round of tax cuts and opposed other Republican initiatives.
Times reporter David Herszenhorn was the first to notice McCain's recent audacity in criticizing Democrats. The headline to his December 7 story on the paper's "Caucus" blog calling it "the crankiness of the defeated ."