In other words, it’s a way to assess McCain on substance. Whether or not the mortgage plan is an ill-advised idea, it tells us something about how McCain might govern. Not mentioning it as the candidates travel through swing states—and sticking to the rhetoric wars—tells us little new about McCain. It’s incomplete to make the story all about McCain’s campaign tactics, which, while perhaps valid indicators of his character and temperament, aren’t necessarily indicators of the sort of president he would make. And at this stage in the campaign, voters need all the substantive information they can get.

A New York Times piece by Elisabeth Bumiller put the two pieces in context:

…those attacks pump up crowds on the campaign trail, where it is the sharp criticism of Mr. Obama, rather than Mr. McCain’s once-over comments on the economy, that draw the biggest, loudest response…

While this arguably sets up the two pieces of the puzzle—McCain’s criticisms of Obama and the mortgage proposal—as an either-or proposition that may not be entirely fair, it does inject a better perspective on the issues currently at stake. This Washington Post article also tackles the mortgage proposal head on.

But after yesterday’s rhetoric-heavy article, the LAT leads its political news with another warring rhetoric story. The NYT Web site, for its part, matches two stories about McCain and Palin pushing the Ayers line of attack, with a story about Obama responding to McCain’s mortgage proposal. It’s a reminder that even if candidates don’t follow through on their own propositions, it shouldn’t limit reporters from reminding their readers what is missing from the speeches.

Jane Kim is a writer in New York.