Thoughts on McCain’s Speech

It took a bit of courage to begin by expressing gratitude to President Bush for “leading us in those dark days following the worst attack on American soil in our history, and keeping us safe from another attack many thought was inevitable.” While McCain is obviously his own man, I don’t think he can run entirely away from the record of the Bush administration, which he supported more often than not.

It was nice, too, to say a few kind words about Barack Obama and his supporters.

So far, the loudest applause has been for his comments about Sarah Palin.

There were two Code Pink protesters who had to be dragged out. They pulled them up the aisle right next to where I’m sitting. I shared some thoughts with them.

I’m not crazy about the recitation of McCain’s sympathy for individuals who live in various swing states. I suppose this is a response to polls that say one area where McCain lags behind Obama is in “understanding the problems of people like me.”

McCain is pretty tough on his own party:

I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. We were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger. We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Senator Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.

The litany of Republican principles is not exactly original, but maybe it will come as news to some television viewers that Republicans want to cut taxes and Democrats want to increase them.

McCain on energy:

My fellow Americans, when I’m President, we’re going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we’ll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.

Still no ANWR, apparently. Nevertheless, this got loud applause, as compared to Obama, it should.

Not many men could say this and get away with it, but McCain can:

We face many threats in this dangerous world, but I’m not afraid of them. I’m prepared for them. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. 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 secure the peace.

A nice section on why McCain hates war, an antidote to the Democrats’ suggestion that he’s a warmonger.

The speech is OK, but a little flat and unstructured. To me most of it seems like old hat, but McCain probably isn’t talking to me: he is explaining himself and his party to television viewers, some of whom have little sense of either.

The tone is conversational, maybe in a deliberate effort to contrast with Obama’s oratory. It looks like the tone is intended to be low-key until the end, which is rousing.

I wondered how McCain would handle his Vietnam years. He’s telling it as a story of humility. It’s very effective, I think.

The finish is coming; it should get the hall going. Now it’s time to get miked for a post-mortem on PJTV. I’ll have more to say later.

UPDATE: My comments on PJTV following the speech tracked almost exactly with Paul’s assessment. I would add just one more thing. McCain’s style was conversational; he did not try to compete with Obama’s oratory, and most would say that his style didn’t compare with his rival’s. But that doesn’t mean that he communicated less effectively. Television is an intimate medium that lends itself to a conversational style. If a speaker orates on television, he creates distance between himself and the audience. The audience at home may say that he is a good speaker, but that is different from being persuaded by his ideas. McCain’s speech may simultaneously have been less impressive and more effective than Obama’s.

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