We used to refer to people like John McCain as being a "character." It was neither a compliment nor a slur, but implicitly implied a certain fondness for, and uniqueness about, those so designated.
The last thing someone would say about Barack or Al Gore or HRC or Mitt Romney or John Edwards was that any of them were "characters."
Bill Clinton, now that he finds himself no longer enjoying the isolation from the public that does a sitting president, is beginning to earn his "a character" stripes by finger pointing, red faced televised arguments with members of the unwashed masses who suddenly can get right in his face and disagree with him.
McCain, however, seems to take pride in being a character. Reports of his cursing colleagues in the House and Senate, throwing punches at a freshman congressman twice his size, being a real-life fighter pilot during wartime, mingling with the reporters on his campaign bus and taking all questions "on the record," they're all worthy actions of a character.
He seems, like I have read Harry Truman also seemed, to be comfortable with who and what he is, grievous flaws and all.
Although he does claim expertise in national security/foreign policy matters, he doesn't pretend an intellectual's status in those realms; it's his experience that he cites. He frequently is the butt of his own jokes mocking his age and his battered appearance; he's hardly humble, but somehow gives the impression that he is---in short, he's a "character."
And that's refreshing to a lot of Americans. His positions on some issues may be somewhat ambiguous and subject to change, he may be vulgar in private exchanges, but he himself remains who is he, take it or leave it.
Frankly, I don't think he'd hesitate to hop in an F-15 and drop a few loads onto Sadr City even now. So to imagine that it takes an act of courage to venture into enclaves of unarmed democrats of any race or color is just plain silly.
He'll go, he'll answer questions, maybe argue with a few of the questioners, poke fun at himself whenever possible, hoping his "I am what you see," approach might at least make some in the audience less hostile to his candidacy, perhaps even snatch a couple of votes from his foray behind enemy lines.
But it will be another another episode of gutsiness, if not intelligence, that he'll come away with. And no presidential candidate has suffered election harm by being considered too gutsy.
Even against the brilliant, erudite, handsome, articulate, seemingly flawless Barack Obama, Bulldog McCain will give him a fight.