First things first…

McCain’s speech last night was probably one of the best I’ve ever seen him give. But having said that it still wasn’t a well delivered speech. Much like Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000, he just doesn’t have it, and that’s not something he can really help at this point. His policy proposals read more like a laundry list instead of a comprehensive vision. Basically, John McCain is John McCain and you’re going to have to get past the delivery and the stumbles to hear the message.

So what about that message?

Well, as mentioned, the speech wasn’t really heavy on policy specifics so it didn’t really paint a complete picture in that regard. However, a call to Americans to do more than just shop and consume is what I’ve been waiting for McCain to say to a convention hall full of Republicans. His speech basically framed the Republican platform as less about capitalism and more about national service making people believe in ideals greater than themselves. Essentially, America can make you a better person if you let it. And while that seems like a fairly statist POV, wrapping that message in his own life story was extremely effective and very compelling to me on a strictly personal level.

So why will the speech ultimately fall flat for most voters?

Because McCain has been using his POW story as a default answer for too many questions the past 20 months. If he had held off during the campaign and never talked about the POW story in depth, last night would have been a watershed moment. We would have finally had an intimate view into this man, his story and why that makes him tick. We would have had a reason to believe that he truly would put “Country First.” We would have held him as the gold standard for public servants.

But that’s not what happened. And the only person John McCain can blame is himself.

Still, I want to stress that I LOVED his call to service. And for that reason alone, if McCain somehow becomes President, a focus on national service would definitely be a bright spot. Just so long as we don’t end up with a draft.

However, I have to admit that one of the side effects of talking so much about national service is that it made me even angrier at the Bush administration for not asking more from us post 9/11 except buy into their awful reasoning for going to war. But that’s not McCain’s fault.

And one last thing…about his policy proposals…was it my imagination or did he talk about wage insurance? If so, that seems like a BIG break from traditional Republican ideals.

Maybe he is a maverick after all.

  • Morgan Walker

    Heh. McCain really doesn’t have “it.” Worst since Carter? Maybe. On funnier note, 236’s new profile is pretty good. Maybe worth a look:

  • Ed

    Calling for service while trashing community organizers? Priceless.

  • Dr. Pete

    The worst crime Bush ever committed, IMO, was to not call us to service after 9/11. Instead, he let us believe we could fight a war on two fronts, pay less taxes, and do nothing to help, all at the same time. I’m not voting for McCain at this point, but I think he at least understands that we can’t pander to people forever without consequences.

  • ExiledIndependent

    Ed, I think he’s trashing one specific community organizer 😉

  • Couple things-

    One, when mccain speaks of national service i am not particularly enthused. Partly it is because of his heavy focus on the military. Maybe he does not believe that the military is the only way to serve the country but i bet he thinks it is the best way. Also disconcerting to me is the way he wraps up his service talk with all the disparagement of Obama’s patriotism. He builds his service into essentially the concept of fighting the war in Iraq. There was that awkward answer to the lady about he return of the draft. I can see McCain justifying a return of the draft as just making sure every one serves their country.

    Second i have seen the wage insurance stuff thrown out there a couple times on the net. It is bait. He has no intention of following through with it. it is a ploy to see if he can burnish his maverickness during the election. It is a purely political move and if people start to applaud him for doing nothing more than including it in his speech than that will have been effective.

  • I share your appreciation of his call to service, and I also was surprised to year the “we’ll make up or part of it” bit, and even more surprised that it was an applause line.

    As a side note, I’m tired of people commenting on the speech they expected to hear, instead of the one he actually gave, especially when those people get paid to do it on TV. I’m starting to think people come up with their reactions before hearing the speech. Some of the lines I’ve heard:

    “McCain just talked about drilling.” Not true, he also mentioned wind, natural gas, nuclear, and many other forms of energy, making clear that he believes they are all important, contrary to what some say (that republicans think we can “drill our way out of this problem”. His website also makes it clear that this is his position.

    “McCain didn’t offer any specifics.” The conversation about the “wage insurance” is proof of that there was at least one specific. Although I agree that there wasn’t a lot, but there typically isn’t in acceptable speeches.

    And, in response to Gaucho regarding service:

    “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.”

    I didn’t feel he was trying to rank the ways to serve the country. Certainly he considers joining the military as a very good way to serve. But in the actual speech (regardless of what you think he really means) he clearly stated that there are many good ways to serve and didn’t attempt to rank which ways are better.

  • @Mike

    But in the actual speech (regardless of what you think he really means) he clearly stated that there are many good ways to serve and didn’t attempt to rank which ways are better.

    Agreed on that. Still, I fear he could be hinting at the draft. Maybe that’s just my own personal fears, but given that he’s talked about more wars being a reality, it keeps my on point. 🙂

    Personally, I would love to see a year of national service for every man and woman to our country to help those folks who are in need. It certainly wouldn’t be military service, but it would be a boon to our collective understanding that ALL need to help out to make this country great.

    But that idea is so politically unpopular that it’ll never fly.

    Oh well.

  • Justin, I like your idea.

    We’re all certainly entitled to have fears about what we think a candidate might do, regardless of what he says he will do (this is largely what’s behind the Republicans claim that Obama will raise taxes, despite the fact that he says he won’t for most Americans). But my point is just that when criticizing a speech, it’s not really fair to inject what we think he will do rather than what he said. If we do that, then there really isn’t a speech he could give that would be liked by those who already have their own ideas about what he would do. Personally, I’m tired of hearing pundits give reactions that sound as if they could have been written before the speech was actually given, so I’m sensitive the distinction between criticizing a candidate and criticizing a speech.