Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 4, 2008

Re: Who Was The Audience

John, I agree. Also by eschewing the heaping spoonfuls of political venom which Obama served up McCain aimed at swing, Independent voters. As for conservatives, they can hardly complain that the GOP candidate is running on the platform of Reagan and Goldwater.

If McCain loses, I think it will be fair to say no Republican would have won. If he wins, I think it will be fair to say no other Republican could have won.

John, I agree. Also by eschewing the heaping spoonfuls of political venom which Obama served up McCain aimed at swing, Independent voters. As for conservatives, they can hardly complain that the GOP candidate is running on the platform of Reagan and Goldwater.

If McCain loses, I think it will be fair to say no Republican would have won. If he wins, I think it will be fair to say no other Republican could have won.

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Who Was the Audience?

Over in my old haunts at the Corner, there is general disappointment with the speech and McCain’s failure or refusal to offer specific policy prescriptions that offer a break with the status quo. But this was not a speech for people interested in policy, or for those who are going to vote for McCain, but for people who don’t yet know for whom they are going to vote. It was designed to demonstrate McCain’s unusual blend of personal heroism and history as an unconventional politician, to define him to tens of millions who don’t know that much about him. It was intended to go directly at the notion that a McCain administration will be a continuation of the Bush administration, and thereby neutralize a key Democratic attack. In these respects, I suspect, it was very successful.

Over in my old haunts at the Corner, there is general disappointment with the speech and McCain’s failure or refusal to offer specific policy prescriptions that offer a break with the status quo. But this was not a speech for people interested in policy, or for those who are going to vote for McCain, but for people who don’t yet know for whom they are going to vote. It was designed to demonstrate McCain’s unusual blend of personal heroism and history as an unconventional politician, to define him to tens of millions who don’t know that much about him. It was intended to go directly at the notion that a McCain administration will be a continuation of the Bush administration, and thereby neutralize a key Democratic attack. In these respects, I suspect, it was very successful.

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Some Observations

One gets a different sense in the middle of an event — in this case an aisle away from two Code Pink rude-niks being hauled from the hall as the crowd burst into “USA!” The electric excitement being in the center of the event can be either instructive or distracting. In this case what struck me was the solidity of McCain. He is a stocky man — he conveys weight and stability. His language is basic and he marched the audience through first principles of conservatism and basic policy objectives.

In short, this was a speech well suited to the man delivering it.

One gets a different sense in the middle of an event — in this case an aisle away from two Code Pink rude-niks being hauled from the hall as the crowd burst into “USA!” The electric excitement being in the center of the event can be either instructive or distracting. In this case what struck me was the solidity of McCain. He is a stocky man — he conveys weight and stability. His language is basic and he marched the audience through first principles of conservatism and basic policy objectives.

In short, this was a speech well suited to the man delivering it.

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The Balance

McCain’s “I’ll fight for you” line posed certain dangers to him. When Democrats use the “I’ll fight for you” line, it’s often there to suggest a stiff-necked strength that is not present in their foreign policy. For a Republican who supports a full-throated foreign and military policy, it may simply seem like too much fighting.

That was why the section on his hatred of war was so central, in which he said, ” I hate war. It is terrible beyond imagination.  I’m running for President to keep the country I love safe, and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military and the power of our ideals – to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace.”

McCain’s “I’ll fight for you” line posed certain dangers to him. When Democrats use the “I’ll fight for you” line, it’s often there to suggest a stiff-necked strength that is not present in their foreign policy. For a Republican who supports a full-throated foreign and military policy, it may simply seem like too much fighting.

That was why the section on his hatred of war was so central, in which he said, ” I hate war. It is terrible beyond imagination.  I’m running for President to keep the country I love safe, and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military and the power of our ideals – to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace.”

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Tied

CBS News Poll as of Friday: Obama 42%, McCain 42%

CBS News Poll as of Friday: Obama 42%, McCain 42%

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Rebranding of the GOP

Gloria Borger just said that McCain has rebranded the Republican Party.  I think she’s right.  And it’s a good thing.  For too long, the GOP has been simply trying to rely on Reagan’s legacy, a good deal of which was squandered by the Republican-controlled Congress.  The real change in this election is taking place in the GOP, not in the Democratic Party.

Gloria Borger just said that McCain has rebranded the Republican Party.  I think she’s right.  And it’s a good thing.  For too long, the GOP has been simply trying to rely on Reagan’s legacy, a good deal of which was squandered by the Republican-controlled Congress.  The real change in this election is taking place in the GOP, not in the Democratic Party.

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Fighting.

With all the talk of fighting, is McCain heading into the home stretch with a Bob Shrum-for-conservatives message?

With all the talk of fighting, is McCain heading into the home stretch with a Bob Shrum-for-conservatives message?

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Re: A Striking Political Fact

It also struck the most elevated tone of the entire campaign. Selflessness, inclusiveness, serving a higher cause, fighting together.

It also struck the most elevated tone of the entire campaign. Selflessness, inclusiveness, serving a higher cause, fighting together.

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McCain and His Country

This was an extremely patriotic speech about national restoration — and a remarkable reminder of the kind of person McCain is. But as a political matter, the best parts came whenever McCain reminded people he runs against the Washington culture. I think he could have been even more radical about the things he will change and even more outspoken about abandoning Beltway business as usual. (The line about cutting foreign aid to “countries that don’t like us very much” may have received the biggest cheer.) At one point he declared: “We need to change almost everything about the way our government works.” But McCain campaign doesn’t (yet) have the platform and ideas to meet that challenge. Too often tonight, McCain started to sound like every other Washington Senator. I think to win over the swings, he really has to stake out some positions that show, simply, clearly, that his view of government and Washington is genuinely different. He came close on school choice. But on energy, trade, even foreign policy (!) there was too much Republican boilerplate.

Of course, at the end, the speech returned, fittingly, to McCain’s experience in Vietnam and his own love of America. It was a moving, rousing conclusion. But was it enough? George H.W. Bush (in 1992) and Bob Dole made their experience and character a centerpiece of their unsuccessful run. I think that, in the next two months, McCain needs more of the independent maverick themes captured so well by Palin last night. We know he loves his country. He has to demonstrate that he is sick of its Capital.

This was an extremely patriotic speech about national restoration — and a remarkable reminder of the kind of person McCain is. But as a political matter, the best parts came whenever McCain reminded people he runs against the Washington culture. I think he could have been even more radical about the things he will change and even more outspoken about abandoning Beltway business as usual. (The line about cutting foreign aid to “countries that don’t like us very much” may have received the biggest cheer.) At one point he declared: “We need to change almost everything about the way our government works.” But McCain campaign doesn’t (yet) have the platform and ideas to meet that challenge. Too often tonight, McCain started to sound like every other Washington Senator. I think to win over the swings, he really has to stake out some positions that show, simply, clearly, that his view of government and Washington is genuinely different. He came close on school choice. But on energy, trade, even foreign policy (!) there was too much Republican boilerplate.

Of course, at the end, the speech returned, fittingly, to McCain’s experience in Vietnam and his own love of America. It was a moving, rousing conclusion. But was it enough? George H.W. Bush (in 1992) and Bob Dole made their experience and character a centerpiece of their unsuccessful run. I think that, in the next two months, McCain needs more of the independent maverick themes captured so well by Palin last night. We know he loves his country. He has to demonstrate that he is sick of its Capital.

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What was most conspicuously missing…

…was foreign policy. His words on Russia were downright conciliatory compared to his campaign rhetoric, and everything else — Iraq, terrorism, Iran — was mentioned in passing. I don’t think, though, that his problem area is a public perception of his unwillingness to take on our enemies.

…was foreign policy. His words on Russia were downright conciliatory compared to his campaign rhetoric, and everything else — Iraq, terrorism, Iran — was mentioned in passing. I don’t think, though, that his problem area is a public perception of his unwillingness to take on our enemies.

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A Striking Political Fact

This was the most nonpartisan convention speech delivered in my lifetime.

This was the most nonpartisan convention speech delivered in my lifetime.

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A Cause Greater Than Yourself

This is a challenge to the culture of narcisim that has overtaken this society.  It is really quite radical.  It isn’t just a slogan. It’s a life-changing, country-changing challenge.  

This is a challenge to the culture of narcisim that has overtaken this society.  It is really quite radical.  It isn’t just a slogan. It’s a life-changing, country-changing challenge.  

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“We Never Hide from History. We Make History.”

A stunning final minute.

A stunning final minute.

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What He Is Up To

His is a call to country to do something. It is concrete but this is the most poetic part of the speech:

I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God. If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

Oh and yes, the contrast is pretty clear.

His is a call to country to do something. It is concrete but this is the most poetic part of the speech:

I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God. If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

Oh and yes, the contrast is pretty clear.

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Nice Dig

He’s not the anointed one.  He’s humble.

He’s not the anointed one.  He’s humble.

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A lot of people…

say they admire McCain’s bravery in Vietnam, but claim it’s irrelevant as a qualification for the presidency. The current vignette is connecting the two in dramatic fashion.

say they admire McCain’s bravery in Vietnam, but claim it’s irrelevant as a qualification for the presidency. The current vignette is connecting the two in dramatic fashion.

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Something Perot-Like Here

He has chosen bipartisanship as his key political strategy; it’s necessary, because he will have no choice if he wins, but it’s also very much part of his own political history, as angry conservatives will remember when they nearly lost their minds over the “gang of 14″ deal to get some judges confirmed:

Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as President. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.

Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn’t think of them first, let’s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let’s try sharing it. This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to. I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me. And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

We’re going to finally start getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won’t care who gets the credit.

He has chosen bipartisanship as his key political strategy; it’s necessary, because he will have no choice if he wins, but it’s also very much part of his own political history, as angry conservatives will remember when they nearly lost their minds over the “gang of 14″ deal to get some judges confirmed:

Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as President. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.

Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn’t think of them first, let’s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let’s try sharing it. This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to. I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me. And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

We’re going to finally start getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won’t care who gets the credit.

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Blessed by Misfortune

Obama is the golden man.  He’s never been tested by anything more challenging than winning an election against Alan Keyes.  McCain is a true hero. And he shouldn’t be afraid to talk about this. Finally, he’s able to share his stories with the American people.

Obama is the golden man.  He’s never been tested by anything more challenging than winning an election against Alan Keyes.  McCain is a true hero. And he shouldn’t be afraid to talk about this. Finally, he’s able to share his stories with the American people.

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The scars to prove it

Nice way to bring up his efforts to reform immigration before a crowd that largely disagrees with him.

Nice way to bring up his efforts to reform immigration before a crowd that largely disagrees with him.

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Blunt Again

“Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as President. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.”

“Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as President. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.”

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