Back before John McCain became the Republican nominee for president, The New York Times called him “the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe.” The paper praised him for “working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation” and predicted that he would appeal to “a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.”

At the same time, the Times denounced Rudy Giuliani as “a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man.” The paper called Mitt Romney “shape-shifting,” claiming that it’s “hard to find an issue on which he has not repositioned himself to the right since he was governor of Massachusetts.”

I found some issues on which Romney hasn’t repositioned himself — and it wasn’t hard! Among them: tax cuts, health care, same-sex marriage, illegal immigration and the surge in Iraq. In fact, the only issue on which Romney has changed his position is abortion, irritating conservatives who would prefer that Republicans simply write off places like Massachusetts and New York City, for the sake of preserving their perfect pro-life credentials.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof echoed the editorial page in early February with a column titled: “Who Is More Electable?” In a surprise twist, he concluded that McCain is “the Republican most likely to win the November election.” Kristof touted McCain’s “unusual appeal among swing voters” and cited polls showing that McCain would do “stunningly well” in a general election.

Also in February, CNN produced polls showing McCain doing better than “generic Republican” in a general election. CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained that this was a tribute to how “well respected” McCain is.

Hey, is it too late for us to nominate “generic Republican”?

On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” from the way Chris Matthews carried on about McCain, you’d think he had caught a glimpse of Obama’s ankle. Matthews said that McCain was “the real straight talker … a profile in courage … more seasoned than the current president, a patriot, of course … honest and respected in the media. He has all the pluses in the world of a sort of a, you know, an Audie Murphy, if you will, a real war hero.”

I guess the party’s over.

Now the Times won’t even publish McCain’s op-ed. I wouldn’t have published it either — I’ve read it twice and I still can’t remember what it says — but I also wouldn’t have published McCain’s yearly op-eds for the last decade, as the Times did.

Since McCain has gone from being a Republican “maverick” to Republican “nominee,” he’s also gone from being one of the Times’ most frequent op-ed columnists to being unpublishable.

I looked up McCain’s lengthy oeuvre for the Times, and if you want unpublishable, that’s unpublishable. In one column, McCain assailed Republicans for their lack of commitment to the environment, noting that polls — probably the same ones showing him to be the most “electable” Republican — indicated that “the environment is the voters’ number-one concern about continued Republican leadership of Congress.”

You have got to be kidding me.

The rest of McCain’s op-eds in the Times bravely took on “unnecessary regulation” and “pork-barrel spending.” It’s that sort of courage that tells me we’re going to be OK this fall.

In coming out four-square against “unnecessary regulation” and “pork-barrel spending,” McCain threw down the gauntlet to those who favor “unnecessary regulation” and “pork-barrel spending.” Isn’t there a rule that says you’re not being brave if not a single person in the world disagrees with you?

While the media are busy telling McCain, “It’s not you, it’s us,” they seem not to have noticed that Al Gore (a recent Democratic candidate for president) has gone nuts. Gore’s increasingly bizarre public statements are a strong reminder of the dangers of going off carbs.

On “Meet the Press” last weekend, Gore called on America to be carbon dioxide-free within 10 years. In the same spirit, I call on America to be oxygen-free within 10 years!

Say, how do “hot lap dances” affect global warming? Last week, a Gore supporter and founder of the Democratic organization “Voter March,” Louis Posner, was arrested in New York on charges of prostitution and money laundering.

According to the police, in addition to sponsoring events accusing Bush of stealing the 2000 election, Posner ran a prostitution ring out of his club, clandestinely named the “Hot Lap Dance Club.” Employees say they were required to have sex with Posner in order to work there. (No wonder Posner was so testy about the 2000 election — he missed the glory of the Clinton years.)

Imagine the important reporting we could have gotten on the “Hot Lap Dance Club” if only the entire American media weren’t with the Messiah on his “Ich Bin Ein Berlitzer” Tour!

But a two-week vacation in Europe is just what Obama needs to polish up his speech about all the world’s problems being caused by American boorishness and stupidity. That ought to make for a boffo op-ed in The New York Times!

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