There was a dust-up between Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) today, in which McCain mistook integrity for mere politics:
"I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble," the Arizona Republican said in a letter to Obama. "Please be assured I won't make the same mistake again."
In response, Obama sent a letter back to McCain, saying he was "puzzled" by McCain's reaction and insisting he still supported a bipartisan approach to ethics reform. "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you, nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem," Obama wrote.
(Obama has published the entire exchange on his Website.)
Only, once you read the Republican proposal (that would limit the actions of lobbyists) and the Democratic proposal (that would actually address earmarks and other abuses of power), it's hard to fault Obama from not joining the majority.
Plus, McCain's is a peculiar criticism, since Obama never actually committed to anything. Instead, he declined to support the Republican proposal, which is totally different.
Josh Marshall adds a good political perspective:
But the key here to note is what's behind this dust-up. Obama is a rising star among the Democrats. Republicans want to lay a backstory for feature criticisms and character attacks against him. So, for instance, if Obama is the vice presidential candidate in 2008, they want to have a history of attacks on him banked, ones that allege he's a liar, or too partisan, or untrustworthy, whatever. It doesn't even really matter. What matters is that there already be an established history of them. Point being, that in early 2008, they want to be able to simply refer back to Obama's 'character issue', the questions about his honesty, etc. rather than have to make the case on its merits.
McCain v. Obama in 2008? Now that would be a good race.
Disclosure: I contributed time, money, and—no kidding—coffee to the Obama primary and general campaigns in 2004.