Sunday, September 07, 2008

John McCain's Speech to the RNC

McCain performs well with "workman" like speech

As John McCain took to the stage at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota, he certainly had an uphill battle to fight.

Barack Obama's speech at the Pepsi Centre in Denver, Colorado a week before had been masterful. The Republican faithful were counting on McCain to deliver a speech, if not quite the equal of Obama's, at least one fairly competitive.

In his own way, McCain did precisely that. Although he didn't perform quite as spectacularly as many Republicans must have hoped for, he may have done even better in a way few would have expected.

McCain had many questions to answer at this, the acceptance of his nomination for President. One way or another, he answered them all.

McCain continued his perplexing strategy of moving closer to George W Bush by thanking him for his leadership during "dark times".

McCain promised Obama not only a contest, but also his respect and admiration, insisting that being American has imbued them with more similarities to unite them than differences to divide them.

McCain continued to promise reform in Washington, and introduced Palin as the Vice President who would help him control special interest groups. He also promised to wrangle corrupt politicians and pork blatant barrellers, promising to "make them famous."

"You will know their names. You will know their names."

McCain's list of political enemies is one that may not necessarily endear him to either extreme of the political divide in the United States: Tobacco companies, trial lawyers and union bosses, only to name a few. But at least the American people can say with some degree of certainty exactly who the "special interests" he plans to corral really are.

McCain pledged to take "the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan back to the basics." In the name of this, he played to some typical Republican cards, promising to cut taxes, cut spending, and warning against socialized health care.

Some of McCain's promises seemed vaguely contradictory. He noted that while Obama wants to bring back lost jobs by "wishing away the global market", McCain's government would help workers who have lost jobs that won't return by helping them find new jobs "that won't go away".

Of course, in guarantee to ensure those jobs "won't go away", McCain would essentially have to "wish away the global market."

Most strikingly, McCain promised a national project that would stop the Americans from "sending $700 billion annually overseas to countries that don't like [them] very much" with an ambitious new energy plan. New oil developments (presumably including drilling in currently protected Alaskan fields), nuclear energy and clean coal would be coupled with electric and hybrid vehicles to make the United States more self-sufficient in terms of energy.

On the foreign policy front, McCain spoke of Iran as the top state sponsor of terrorism and the reemerging Russian colossus. While promising to maintain good relations with Russia, he promised to stand up to Russian aggression and expansionism, such as that recently seen in their invasion of Georgia.

For the good or ill of his candidacy, McCain once again reiterated his commitment to the war in Iraq. But dismissed by many as a hawk, McCain established solid credentials as what Fear's Empire author Benjamin Barber would instead describe as an "owl" -- an individual not predisposed against the use of force, but wary of the potential consequences.

"What matters is not that you can fight, but what you fight for is the real test," McCain insisted.

McCain only reiterated his awareness of the consequences of armed conflict when he spoke of his childhood years spent being raised by his mother while his father fought in WWII, of the death of his grandfather (of exhaustion) during the war, and of lost friends in Vietnam.

McCain also spoke of his own time as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. He spoke of how mistakes made as a fighter pilot led to his capture in Hanoi, and spoke of the strength and solidarity he found in his fellow POWs.

In the end, he said, he emerged not as his own man wrought with "selfish indepenence", but rather as his country's man.

For a man with a war record as pronounced as McCain's (as well as that of his family) it may be fitting that fighting was so thematic of McCain's speech -- fighting corruption, fighting irresponsibility, fighting America's enemies.

Fighting to regain America's trust.

McCain's speech provided a remarkable contrast between himself and his Democrat opponent: Obama's speech was filled with passion, enthusiasm and emotion. McCain's, by contrast, was calm, collected and confident. Obama came across more as a man who has yet to make his case for the Presidency of the United States. Meanwhile, McCain came across as a man who is confident that his case has already been made.

Certainly, McCain's speech was less than spectacular. But that very well may be the point: McCain's candidacy isn't about grand spectacle -- it's about doing the business of the United States of America. Part of McCain's plan for doing that business involves change -- or reform, if you will -- but McCain is the businesslike candidate in the race.

Unsurprisingly, McCain promised a bi-partisan administration, reaching out to both Democrats and Republicans.

Which is precisely what he'll have to do if he wants to be President.

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