Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 4, 2008
POLITICS: John McCain's Night

Last night was the fireworks at the GOP Convention, the high-wire triumph of Sarah Palin, the street fighting of Rudy. Tonight was the hard work: John McCain laying out his policy vision. So, what did I think?

John McCain is a great talker, but not a great speaker - he's the polar opposite of Obama, who gives a tremendous speech but does not converse and answer questions so well. Those of us who have grown to know McCain's speaking style well over the years did not have great expectations for this speech. This is his weak suit. He was inevitably going to be a bit of a letdown from Wednesday night.

Moreover, this was not the speech I would have written for McCain, were I advising him. He laid out his domestic policy vision, specifically in some cases (e.g., education, energy, trade, job training, business taxes), more vaguely in others (health care). But he didn't walk issue by issue through the differences between his mainstream positions and Obama's extreme positions. He explicitly distanced himself from the now-departed GOP Congressional majority, but he never explicitly explained the fact that he's very different as well from President Bush, and he never told the voters that the Democrats now control Congress, despite polls indicating that a good many voters don't even know that. He explained his support for the surge in Iraq, but he didn't contrast it with Obama's call for a complete withdrawal by March 2008. I don't think tonight was the night to attack Obama, but it was the night to contrast McCain's positions and record on the issues with Obama's. He missed that opportunity, and may regret it.

But as the saying goes, you disserve the reader when you review a book or movie you didn't see rather than the one that is actually in front of you. McCain's speech tonight, on its own terms, was OK, if rather long and not all that exciting. This was old-style pre-1960s patriotism, and elevating himself above partisanship as McCain so loves to do. I did really like his explanation that hyper-partisanship (which I, of course, don't disdain the way McCain does) isn't the problem but a symptom of a self-interested political class.

He didn't have a fancy stage, but spoke in the midst of the crowd, in a setting more like the townhall meetings he prefers. That undoubtedly gave the Secret Service ulcers, especially when the rude and classless Code Pink protestors repeatedly interrupted his opening. Conservatives do not do this to liberal politicians; nobody interrupted Barack Obama. But dealing with people with no manners, no maturity and no decency is the cross borne by Republicans. Hopefully the audience at home gave McCain a break for the choppy intro, recognizing what vile people these are. We already learned that the folks who rushed the stage last night included a major Obama fundraiser. Charming. Fortunately, McCain handles hecklers well, and has long experience with them.

If last night had gone badly, McCain's section paying tribute to Gov. Palin might have seemed like propping her up, but at this point, it felt more like he was trying to get in on some of the crowd's unconditional enthusiasm for her. It may have gained him his biggest applause lines until his big finish.

I was pleasantly surprised that McCain dedicated so much of his speech to school choice and charter schools. (On the other hand, we heard nothing about entitlement reform).

McCain also played the experience card without being overtly obvious about it, simply laying out the foreign challenges and explaining that his years in the business enable him to understand how the world works. We could have used some contrast with Obama's ideas there, but so be it. He did pay tribute to the enduring accomplishment of the Bush Administration, the prevention of any real followup attacks after September 11.

Finally, McCain may not have given a great speech, but he ended spectacularly. Judging by their Denver Convention, the Democrats do not know how to end speeches anymore, not the way Teddy Kennedy did in 1980; Obama's strongest section was the homage to Martin Luther King, but he kept on going after that, and a week later I cannot for the life of me remember how his speech ended. Bill and Hillary's speeches each rambled on for several minutes after what should have been their endings. McCain's closing, after recounting the lessons he'd learned in Vietnam (and contrasting himself with Obama's self-absorption and self-aggrandizement for a life of decidedly mediocre attainments) was tremendous, and positively Churchillian, stressing the single thing about McCain that Republicans like the most, even for all his bipartisanship and his apostasies from conservative orthodoxy - he's a fighter. It may not read all that well on the page, but after the long hushed recitation of McCain's POW years, it stirred the crowd to its feet:

I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your president. I'm going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank him, that I'm an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth. And with hard work - with hard word, strong faith, and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.

Fight with me. Fight with me.

Fight for what's right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight.

Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up.

We never quit.

We never hide from history. We make history.

I loved the fiesty delivery of the closing, how McCain stayed in his rhythm and did not stop for the applause but shouted over it, letting the roar in the hall build and break again and again. It's how you close a speech.

Time will tell if McCain made a good impression - he certainly didn't seem old or tired or crabby, and it takes little effort for him to seem presidential, but he did try the audience's patience. If they stayed for the ending, they got to see the sizzle after eating the steak.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:28 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Green background with a big house? Really? Man, that was bad choice.

And really...if you can't keep protesters from Code Pink with the amount of heavy artillery brought by the RNC to that convention from running that far to interrupt your speech, do you really need to be the one protecting our borders?

Posted by: AstrosFan at September 5, 2008 12:16 AM

Yeah, I did not at all like some of the early backdrops, and I have no idea what that house was.

Posted by: The Crank at September 5, 2008 12:19 AM

Of course, you know that that big house behind McCain is going to be all over blogs...I mean, he did know that the attack that hit the hardest on McCain was the "how many houses" thing, right? That just seems remarkably dumb. McCain was never a great orator, we agree there...but that was downright ridiculous from his campaign...that's just a campaign management error of the biggest magnitude...

As I read elsewhere, "Republicans wondering if it is too late for Palin to dump McCain as running mate"...Eagleton in reverse...

I saw nothing for independents either night...but McCain at least got his makeup better...was clearly full of makeup, but it wasn't cottage cheese in front of lime jello like before...

Posted by: AstrosFan at September 5, 2008 12:55 AM

dealing with people with no manners, no maturity and no decency is the cross borne by Republicans.

You've gotta be kidding. After Rudy's snarling, sneering, sarcasm-filled attack dog routine, you say the GOP has to bear "no decency"?

As a GOPer, how can you stand by watching Giuliani & Palin make fun of Obama's work as a community organizer? I thought running a faith-based, non-governmental charity is exactly the sort of thing you GOPers favor?

What say you to this one, Crank?

* * *
Meanwhile, I thought McCain was effective last night. I expect him to emerge with a very solid lead coming out of these two weeks. Obama has a lot of work ahead of him. Not impossible, but it'll be tough.

Posted by: Mike at September 5, 2008 6:25 AM

For the record Fox News reported after the speech that it wasn't a house but a Junior High School in California.

Posted by: Norm at September 5, 2008 9:00 AM

I read the speech, but didn't hear it. His personal story is quite amazing, I never knew the details. The speech really was aimed at independents and undecideds, I mean, why else would he mention fighting corruption in the Republican party in front of a gathering of Republicans the convention?

I was really hoping he wouldn't talk about education. It's the one policy I can say without reservation that Republicans have really missed the boat. (For the dems, it's immigration, but I'm not sure "missing the boat" is the right expression for that policy.)

Posted by: MVH at September 5, 2008 9:29 AM

Well, if Palin ever gets power MVH, you can kiss any semblance of education goodbye. Anyone who wants to teach creationism in schools, and has tried to ban books will never get my vote. And I still love the McCain call for reform. I agree. Change. Does that mean all the Republicans in Washington, or just the 98% that have caused all the miser?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 5, 2008 9:51 AM

"Anyone who wants to teach creationism in schools, and has tried to ban books will never get my vote. "

That's the least of my worries. She won't have the authority to mandate that schools teach creationism/intelligent design. It's the voucher system and "no child left untested" that bothers me.

Posted by: MVH at September 5, 2008 10:38 AM

MVH, we have different priorities. To me, the First Amendment has a very large priority, especially to those who take an oath to preserve, defend and protect.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 5, 2008 11:43 AM

Yea, the Republican want to really screw things up don't they? Kill the 1st Amendment, teach our kids "bad" things in school, deny them an "real" education, keep illegal immigrants out, attack countries to fill their own pockets with gold, don't allow the unborn to be killed, destroy the earth so that nothing will live on it, force everyone to believe in God, make people be patriotic, screw the poor, let people die because of no heath care, let the rich pay no taxes, hate everyone who is not like them, etc.

Yea, they are the all bad people! Nothing they believe in makes any sense. They are idiots! If they have an R after their names, kill them!

Did I capture the liberal, tolerant point of view? What did I miss?

Posted by: Lee at September 5, 2008 12:36 PM

Lee,

Repukes (I think that's what they call us) are hate-filled, mean-spirited, religious whackos motivated by intense racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and a desire to rape the environment, exploit workers, starve the homeless, wage war and torture innocent captives.

Posted by: stan at September 5, 2008 1:13 PM

"As a GOPer, how can you stand by watching Giuliani & Palin make fun of Obama's work as a community organizer? "

These comments were a direct response to the Obama camp's attempts to denigrate Palin's experience as a small town mayor (while completely ignoring her time as governor). I might have rewritten a line or two, but I think it was an excellent point that needed to be made. If the dem's can't take a little pushback, maybe they shouldnt' have used that particular attack line. It needed to be answered and she answered it.

Posted by: Lea at September 5, 2008 1:18 PM

The ending was pretty impressive. It had a silent intensity that there was nothing that could stop the man. He flipped the Obama mantra of 'Yes we can' to 'Yes we will'.

Posted by: Joe at September 5, 2008 1:24 PM

Criticizing Palin, Guiliani, et al for poking fun at Obama for his "community organizer" creds is disingenuous in the extreme.

First of all, these are convention speeches. They are basically big political pep rallies: mainly intended for party faithful, and often include these sorts of jabs, but they're meant to be taken lightly.

Two, the whole "community organizer" monicker is pretty vague, and is another example of Obama continued reluctance to be very specific about anything. I "community organizer" can mean that he ran a "faith-based, non-governmental charity," but it could also mean that he put together a local softball team. If Obama intends this experience to be counted as important, perhaps he should explain precisely what he organized.

None of this is meant to insult community organizers as a group, and you all know that. But touting his "community organizer" creds without specifying what that means isn't very helpful in determining whether Obama is qualified to be President.

Posted by: Cannon at September 5, 2008 2:19 PM

Criticizing Palin, Guiliani, et al for poking fun at Obama for his "community organizer" creds is disingenuous in the extreme.

First of all, these are convention speeches. They are basically big political pep rallies: mainly intended for party faithful, and often include these sorts of jabs, but they're meant to be taken lightly.

Two, the whole "community organizer" monicker is pretty vague, and is another example of Obama continued reluctance to be very specific about anything. I "community organizer" can mean that he ran a "faith-based, non-governmental charity," but it could also mean that he put together a local softball team. If Obama intends this experience to be counted as important, perhaps he should explain precisely what he organized.

None of this is meant to insult community organizers as a group, and you all know that. But touting his "community organizer" creds without specifying what that means isn't very helpful in determining whether Obama is qualified to be President.

Posted by: Cannon at September 5, 2008 2:19 PM

After Rudy's snarling, sneering, sarcasm-filled attack dog routine, you say the GOP has to bear "no decency"?

Mike, I'll get to the "community organizer" bit separately, but let's say you want to give a speech, and I offer you two options:

1. I will follow it with a speech of my own making fun of what you said.

2. I will run around during your speech yelling and screaming.

Can you really not distinguish between the two?

Posted by: Crank at September 5, 2008 2:32 PM

I didn't see the convention, but I saw the protest clip on the internet. It's pretty bad form to try and interrupt someone's speech. I understand the protest outside got out of hand as well. It's shameful, really.

Posted by: MVH at September 5, 2008 3:01 PM

Crank, whether there is a distinction between a mean-spirited mocking speech and the rudeness of "protesters" misses the point. Each is an example of lack of decency or, a term I prefer, grace.

Trying to interrupt a speech is idiotic and the "Code Pink" folks certainly fit that bill. Rudy, once agin, showed himself to be utterly without class and unfit for public office. Both are indecent and graceless.

Posted by: Magrooder at September 5, 2008 4:41 PM

Funny, as much as I disagree with him, I thought Giuliani's speech the most effective, particularly in defense of Palin. Having a mayor talk about the difficulties of keeping the trains running on time is precisely what she needed to have any semblance of gravitas.

The "community organizer" theme is basically dog whistle code for uppity negro/union sympathizer/commie pinko...Lynn Westmoreland even used the word "uppity" to describe Obama. He should immediately apologize.

As for the school...appears the school is none too happy about the use...apparently McCain's camp didn't know it wasn't Walter Reed hospital, it was Walter Reed Middle School...them Googles, you know...

He basically confirmed that he is out of touch. Due to the split nature of the country and the "fuzziness" that can bestow certain electronic election machines in certain states with Republican governors, this is by no means over...but I do think that McCain has peaked until the debates...McCain is an excellent debater, but he's having to carry a lot of Bush/Cheney water with him...

Posted by: AstrosFan at September 5, 2008 7:23 PM

'Stros, I'm so glad that you brought "uppity negro" language into this. You just demonstrated how this election will go down as the most muzzled in history. This is EXACTLY the problem. Every time someone criticizes Obama, it is spun into a racial slur. It's despicable, it stifles real debate, and it goes to show you who really wants to silence free speech.

You guys have been calling President Bush every name in the book for the past 8 years, and then you cry like stuck pigs the moment someone pokes a little fun at your guy's resume.

Posted by: Cannon at September 5, 2008 8:37 PM

Cannon, to be fair to Astrosfan, Westmoreland's use of the word "uppity" is completely indefensible. I have never in my life heard that term used in a way that was not racially charged. It may be that Westmoreland didn't mean to be deliberately bigoted, but that just makes him a complete moron. If I had been a GOP consultant drawing up a list of words not to use in connection with Obama, that would have been in the top 3 or 4.

Posted by: Crank at September 5, 2008 8:41 PM

I am not defending Westmoreland's use of "uppity," you're absolutely right about that. But we were talking about the use of term "community organizer." I think it's important that we not confuse the use of these two terms. One of them has an obvious racial connotation, the other does not. Yet, the original complaint here and elsewhere was over the use of the latter, not the former. Frankly, I wasn't quite sure how Westmoreland's comment was relevant to our discussion here.

Posted by: Crank at September 5, 2008 9:05 PM

I am not defending Westmoreland's use of "uppity," you're absolutely right about that. But we were talking about the use of term "community organizer." I think it's important that we not confuse the use of these two terms. One of them has an obvious racial connotation, the other does not. Yet, the original complaint here and elsewhere was over the use of the latter, not the former. Frankly, I wasn't quite sure how Westmoreland's comment was relevant to our discussion here.

Posted by: Cannon at September 5, 2008 9:05 PM

I had no issue at all with Palin criticizing Obama's "community organizer" credentials. If Obama's campaign is going to pretend she's not the Governor of Alaska, and instead attack the significance of down-resume positions, she's entirely entitled to do the same.

I think the term means something different for Rudy, though, and for people familiar with Rudy's career - suggesting race-baiting shakedown artists like Al Sharpton. From what I know about that period of Obama's career, I kind of doubt that's a fair comparison, and I'm not really sure if Rudy actually thinks it is, either.

Posted by: Jerry at September 5, 2008 11:01 PM

It is very different in Texas than NY, perhaps...but this dog whistle stuff has been playing here for a long time and is part of the Southern Strategy. I've been long called a "n*****" lover for supporting progressive politics, since I'm a white southerner. Trust me, down here, "community organizer" message was loud and clear. You may not hear the whistle because you are not as trained to hear it like I am, but it was there...

And Westmoreland, of Colbert Report Ten Commandments Fame, is a complete disgrace. Glad to see we're not arguing there.

Push back on the "years" stuff, and his alleged "lack of experience", etc. That's fine. I think anyone who thinks anyone has the experience to be President that isn't a sitting VP is making conjecture. But I didn't hear anyone say he didn't have the temperment to be President, or that Obama wasn't intelligent.

McCain, I believe, is trying...but he's ultimately not that curious, and he's pretty darned impulsive. I'll admit, he's my favorite of the R's that ran this time around and think if he were truly in control he'd be a decent President, but this Palin pick tells me he's a slave to idealogues who frankly don't want "change", they just want a media friendly "more of the same-er"...and this is definitely a change election.

Posted by: AstrosFan at September 6, 2008 12:59 AM

I guess I'd say that Obama doesn't have the temperment to be President. I don't see in Obama someone who would put the country above himself. This was my perception of both Bill and Hill; it was about them not the country. McCain has shown that the country (and it's people) are more important.

While Obama is obviously intelligent, I think it is "book smarts" not "life smarts". I'd rather have a "life smart" President.

As for McCain, I agree he is implusive. This is a concern I have with him. We might be looking at a classic choice between someone who will do w/o fully thinking it through vs. someone who will spent their time thinging and never doing. Kind of like Carter vs. the present Bush.

As I have said before; I'd prefer we just call this election off and try again next year.

Posted by: Lee at September 6, 2008 9:27 AM

I offer you two options:

1. I will follow it with a speech of my own making fun of what you said.

2. I will run around during your speech yelling and screaming.

Can you really not distinguish between the two?

Of course they're distinguishable, but as Magrooder said, they're both indecent & disrespectful.

Plus . . . Rudy didn't just "make fun" of Obama's speech, he made fun of Obama, and he lied, exaggerated, and blustered in doing so.

Meanwhile, as to Cannon's lament that every critique of Obama is turned into a play of the race card, let's accept that as true for the moment.

Then what do you think about those tough guy GOPers in and out of the RNC & the right-wing media whining & crying & moaning about the "unfair" attacks on Palin due to her gender?

I think the GOP should adopt a new slogan: "what's good for the goose is bad for the gander."

Or maybe you'd prefer, "The GOP, where the chickens never come home to roost."

Posted by: Mike at September 6, 2008 9:51 AM

"As I have said before; I'd prefer we just call this election off and try again next year."

Sounds good to me. But then again, we'd probably get the same candidates.

Posted by: MVH at September 6, 2008 6:41 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg