Final Thoughts on John McCain’s Speech

Last night I offered some initial thoughts to John McCain’s acceptance speech that is most definitely at odds to the general consensus of the blogosphere and even some in the media.  In general I stand by those thoughts, though not without reservations.

I do think that on a point of style and tone, John McCain’s speech was generally good.  Some of this, I realize, is a result of falling victim to low expectations; anyone that had watched the Lime Green Monster speech had to at least recognize that this was an improvement.  The other thing I suppose that has me giving McCain at least a little credit is that after sitting through two nights of invective pointed not just at the candidate that I selected but me as a person and as a liberal, it was simply difficult not to be at least a little pleasantly surprised at hearing McCain’s speech which wasn’t a full blown assault on anything that wasn’t rigidly conservative.

Indeed, at some points McCain was laudably classy in recognizing Senator Obama for his accomplishments.

Another reason why I might have been more impressed by McCain’s speech was because I kept losing focus on it.  I really tried to soak up every word, I really did, but I kept drifting off into thoughts like, “Gee, I wonder if the next season of Heroes is going to be really as AWESOME as it looks,” and “hmmm…  My beard is getting really out of control at this point, my wife won’t stop tugging at it and giving me a disapproving glare.  Maybe I should take care of it.”

When I finally wrestled my attention back to the event at hand, I suppose because McCain wasn’t red in the face and condemning all liberals as the scourge of America I sort of assumed he was doing okay.

Where I think McCain truly failed tends to be more on the substantive side, and falls into two general areas.

The first I would classify as, “Did John McCain watch either convention?”  I have to ask this because on the Democrat side, McCain’s characterization of Obama’s platform wasn’t even a mischaracterization; it was an outright falsehood.

I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise

them. I will open…


I will open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them.


I will cut government spending. He will increase it.


My tax cuts will create jobs; his tax increases will eliminate them.


My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and

keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses

to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run

health care system where a bureaucrat…


… where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.

On taxes Obama has said that he will lower taxes for 95% of Americans, that would include, I imagine, a respectable portion of those who booed Obama for McCain’s insistance that he would raise taxes.  On healthcare, Obama has said that he wants to make affordable and available, not mandate, the same healthcare plan that John McCain, Barack Obama, and even myself share.

Let me tell you about this healthcare plan, by the way; it’s in not a government run entity, and it’s pretty great.  It’s cheap and gives you the opportunity to become a member of a wide selection of health care providers that give you a nearly unlimited range of doctors that you can see.  Maybe this is the best kept secret in America because it didn’t work for Kerry when he tried to provide it to everyone, and McCain seems unwilling to let America in on the deal, but we federal employees get pretty awesome healthcare benefits and it doesn’t come close to the socialist fearmongering that righties would have you believe.

McCain further goes on to attack Obama on nuclear power, when Obama said clearly in his acceptance speech that he wants to find safe ways to harness said energy source.  McCain attacked Obama’s lack of desire to drill, even though Obama has made clear that he is open to offshore drilling but only as part of a greater compromise to not just ween us off of foreign oil, but oil completely.

The funniest part of McCain’s speech, and I mean funny in a sad, almost morose sort of fashion, is that some of Obama’s best, most broadly appealing stances, McCain would first claim Obama was against them, and then attempt to steal the idea for himself.

I suppose that’s why McCain threw in that bit towards the beginning about people clamoring to take credit for ideas–he wanted to soften the blow for the co-opt fest that was about to ensue.

But while McCain clearly wasn’t paying attention to either his opponent or the Democratic convention, neither was he paying much attention to his own convention.  This because multiple times in his speech he made the promise that he would end partisan rancor, but only after his convention turned in one of the dirtiest, most invective filled events I have ever witnessed.

Contrast this to the Democratic convention.  It was harsh on Bush, it was harsh on McCain, but at the same time it ALWAYS gave McCain respectful due.  It always recognized his service, and some of the elder statesmen attested to the fact that John McCain was a close and personal friend of theirs.  The tone of the Democratic convention was one of passionate disagreement, the tone of the Republican convention was outright hatred and disrespect.

But the other major portion where John McCain failed is that he simply didn’t do enough.  For one, he didn’t do enough to show why he was the nominee and others weren’t, and in that partisan charged crowd, I don’t think I would be far off the mark if I said that a lot of the delegates wished Sarah Palin was on the ticket.

As hard as it may be to believe, Fred Thompson was more dynamic during his address on Tuesday night, more effective, than John McCain was.  Falling short in comparison to Fred Thompson is bad, but the real issue is did he fall short of Obama during his acceptance speech, and I don’t think you’ll find too many not wholely in the tank for McCain that answer in the negative to that.

But just as McCain didn’t do enough to step out of the shadow of both his opponents and the other speakers, neither did he do enough to define what a McCain administration would do.  The great irony of it all is that just as McCain has attempted to adopt Obama’s mantel of change, he has opened himself up to the criticism it has taken Obama up to last week to finally shake off; what change would that be exactly?

Standing in the way of that question comes one of the weirdest paradoxes of his speech; he adopted a definite “throw the bums out” tone, but he would be exactly one of the bums he was referring to.

Do I think he’ll get a bump from his acceptance speech?  I would be surprised if he didn’t, but I also don’t expect him to draw even with Obama, and I most definitely don’t expect this to be a game changer in any sense of the word.

2 Responses to “Final Thoughts on John McCain’s Speech”

  1. radical_Moderate says:

    If McCain gets any significant bump from his speech then America wasn’t paying close attention. His speech threw out a pastiche of ideas, several of them, as you point out, cribbed from Obama’s plans. McCain was shockingly unfocused.

    For one thing he brought up a few sad stories of struggling Americans and said that he would “fight for them,” but no details were given how he’d really help…end of story. NO matter what the Repugs say snidely about Obama’s styrofoam “greek columns” or denigrate his time spent actually helping Americans in Chicago with job training and job placement (his bad apparently) Obama’s speech had a lazer like focus with actual proposals on how he plans to help Americans get through the economic mess left by Bush.

    I will also point out that Fiscal Conservatives should give a closer look to McCain’s mishmash of New Government programs including a costly Tax Credit to purchase Health Insurance (paid for, ironically, by partially taxing it as income), and the afforementioned new subsitute for Unemployment Insurance that he would replace by enacting a program for retraining displaced workers, encouraging them to take any job in the meantime, including low paying ones, and supplimenting their loss in income with a Government pay-out (actually after taking a look at this idea, it doesn’t sound too bad, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it will be cheap.) Not to mention the cost of an expanded Military.

    Most economists have said that these new programs combined with McCain’s proposed tax cuts will dig this country into an even bigger hole. At least Obama mentioned fiscal responsibity in his fine speech.

  2. I think your very first point is what I’m writing towards. I don’t expect voters to pay close attention; I expect them to pay very cursory attention; especially to a Republican we’ve been told all week we don’t have to scrutinize.

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