Because they have articles like this, which insists McCain "has often displayed a degree of political courage that Mr Obama has never shown," while the same article says
In his desire to get elected, Mr McCain has been prepared to abandon some of the core beliefs that made him so attractive.The Economist ascribes his wholesale sellout of his beliefs to excessive politeness, not a word I would ever think to apply to McCain.
Mr McCain used to be a passionate believer in limited government and sound public finances; a man with some distaste for conservative Republicanism and its obsession with reproductive matters. On the stump, though, he has offered big tax cuts for business and the rich that he is unable to pay for, and he is much more polite to the religious right, whom he once called “agents of intolerance”. He has engaged in pretty naked populism, too, for instance in calling for a “gas-tax holiday”.
The magazine takes the facts that McCain once had views on immigration and tax cuts that differed from those of most Republicans to be evidence of his "political courage." Shouldn't he lose whatever points he gets for political courage, plus penalties, for later repudiating those same views?
The writer for the Economist--like so many journalists--strains to hope for the return of the "real McCain," or rather the incarnation they knew during the 2000 primaries. But he can't magically become a "man of principle" again by doing yet another 180 with his professed views.
For true "political courage," there's nothing that can surpass Obama standing up to oppose to the disastrous Iraq War, at a time when opponents were called traitors, and when the conventional wisdom at the time was that opposing the war was political suicide.