Well, that’s not exactly a news flash. He’s been in the race for a long time. But John McCain formally announced his candidacy in New Hampshire earlier today. You can read his speech here.
It’s good. In the late 1990s, Bill Kristol and others formulated a concept of “national greatness conservatism;” McCain was sometimes viewed as an exemplar of it during the 2000 campaign. Like many other things, national greatness conservatism was more or less swept away by September 11. But the phrase is a pretty good summary of both the content and the tone of McCain’s speech and, I think, of the campaign he intends to run.
McCain emphasized his experience:
We face formidable challenges, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them. I’m not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. I know how Congress works, and how to make it work for the country and not just the re-election of its members. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don’t. I know how to fight and how to make peace. I know who I am and what I want to do.
I liked the low-key way in which he reminded us of the years he spent as a POW:
Thirty-four years ago, I came home from an extended absence abroad. While I was away, I fell in love with my country. I learned that what’s good for America, is good enough for me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country ever since, in uniform and in office, in war and peace. I have never lived a single day, in good times or in bad, that I haven’t thanked God for the privilege.
McCain’s speech tries to be both somber and optimistic. Again, I think that will be the tone of his campaign as well. I don’t doubt that McCain can do somber; it remains to be seen whether he can convince Republican voters that his is the positive vision of the future that they are looking for.
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