September 05, 2008
Crusade To Nowhere
John McCain hit the "reform" theme hard in his speech last night, and I couldn't help but wonder: What does McCain actually plan to change about government? I get that Sarah Palin is a nice person and doesn't like sleaze—except when she's hitting up corporate donors on behalf of Ted Stevens or hiring earmark lobbyists for her hometown... No, but seriously: Back in 2000, McCain could reasonably claim to be a "reform" candidate by touting his campaign finance bill—he had a specific proposal to address a concrete problem.
Mccain Concedes He's A Patriot
The Washington Post reports today: Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) conceded this week that McCain knew that his support both for the war and for the flow of additional troops he said was necessary for victory could doom his prospects in the election. "Calling for more troops to be sent to Iraq was one of the most unpopular things John McCain could have done," Graham said. "Some said it was political suicide. But you know what? It was the right thing to do." Conceded? A concession is when you say something that's against your interests or makes you look bad.
A Good Speech -- In A Vacuum
I sat down in my rocking chair tonight, armed with a glass of Ovaltine and toast with ration-stamp jelly, and experienced McCain's speech like it would have been experienced had he been a mid-century presidential candidate: on the radio. (With no TV at home, I didn't have much of a choice.) Tonally, over the radio I actually liked the speech other commentators are now panning as "mediocre", "not a great success", or even "shockingly bad." What to others sounded flat (was it the crowd? McCain's expression?) to me sounded plain-spoken and unadorned.
How did it play politically? Will it energize the base? Will it make swing voters swoon? As usual, your guess is as good as mine--or any of the pundits you see yapping on the television right now. Until the focus groups and polls come in, we're all just speculating. But I can register a verdict on substance. If this was McCain's answer to voter anxiety about the economy, it wasn't too impressive. As you've been reading--or, perhaps, as you've noticed on your own--economic policy has not been a big theme this week in Minneapolis.
September 04, 2008
The Next Front
At a stop on July 22 in Rochester, New Hampshire, Senator John McCain was asked a series of questions about the American troop presence in Iraq. As he has throughout his campaign, McCain insisted that U.S. forces were winning the war in Iraq and, if allowed to complete their mission, would leave behind a working democracy, check “disruptive” influences, and clear the way for a transformed Middle East. The back-and-forth culminated with the following exchange:Questioner: Don’t you believe that we are inflaming the Muslim world by our presence there?McCain: Thank you. I do not.
Political conventions have a public and a private face. The respective parties and their nominees carefully control how each looks. John McCain’s campaign is trying to keep some of his and Sarah Palin’s positions on policy out of the public eye--meaning out of prime time speeches, and in some cases even out of the public forums that take place during the day and are open to the media. These omissions are as important to what the convention means as the speeches themselves. They show what candidate wants to hide from the public--until after he is elected. 1.
Sleepless in St. Paul
I have been asked what advice I might have for the Palin family. For the record, no Palin (nor Levi Johnston, for that matter) has written in. But the drama surrounding the family life of John McCain’s running mate, for whatever reason, has riveted the country. Maybe the fact that Sarah Palin is the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee is responsible for all this interest. Or it might be the fact that she is good-looking. Or that she was runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest. Or that she has five children, some of whom are the subject of gossip.
The Nostalgia Trap
Watching the first night of the truncated Republican National Convention, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon C-SPAN coverage of some Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering. Shots of the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center revealed a sea of white faces and gray heads.
Mike makes a great point about how well-received Palin's speech was among liberal elites. Lots of them deemed Palin's homespun shtick authentic and assumed it was what actual homespun people want. Fortunately, I think it's just another example of the elites being out of touch. My sense is that, while most PTA mothers don't want politicians bashing them, they don't see PTA membership as a qualification for the presidency. By playing up her ordinary mother bona fides, Palin demonstrated that she's a regular person.
Thanks to his neo-celebrity running mate, John McCain has one tough act to follow. The upside of Sarah Palin's turbocharged speech last night is that, well, the world is now obsessed with her. The downside: She's overshadowing John McCain, and at the same time has amped up the energy here in a way that puts more pressure on McCain to lift up the crowd. McCain needs to muster as much energy as he naturally can.