A lot of you have seen the speech, some have not. Overall, high marks for contents. Very high. I think he brought out the right issues, positions, and comparisons with Obama. He’s working out the differences, which he needs to continue to do. Probably the three key areas that he addressed and should continue to address:
- Key distinctions between Democrats and Republicans on social and economic issues.
- Demonstrable track record in leading and doing the right thing both in policy and ethical behavior.
- Bipartisan attitude and effort in pooling ideas and working with all sides to find the best solutions.
Clearly, the convention floor was energized. I would say (as others have also said) that the presentation was not as strong as the content. I’d have to give John a B- for presentation. However, the apex of the speech, the culmination of his message of “fighting”, was well executed and effective. The key to that was pushing through the speech at that point without stopping despite the applause, cheers, and revelry.
So, some thoughts on key pieces of the speech.
On Sarah Palin:
“I’ve found the right partner to shake up Washington, DC.”
I don’t recall ever seeing so much of a speech by a Presidential nominee devoted to the Vice-Presidential nominee. Very cool. Sending the right message right up front that Sarah has John’s 100% support, that they are a team with common mission, and that the mission is one that Americans have been begging for now for decades. Clean up the Swamp… obviously, Pelosi is unable to.
“I don’t work for a Party, I don’t work for a special interest, I don’t work for myself. I work for you.”
This will be one of the key messages of the campaign, from what I can tell. I’m not 100% behind a message of the President acting as a “representative” of the will of the people. Sometimes, the President is going to have to do some unpopular things and be okay with the consequences, just as Bush has done. Regardless, the intended and probably heard message here is that John considers himself beholden to no other men of power than those than elect him, and that is refreshing, contraintuitive (for most politicians), and effective.
“We lost the trust of the American People… we’re going to change that.”
Honesty about the major errors made by members of his own party. This is probably where “cleaning up Washington” is going to be the most effective message, in declaring that ethical failings have been bipartisan, and that the cleanup will be as well. This may not make some Republican leaders very happy, and hopefully the American people will get the fact that this is a big risk for McCain.
“Education is the Civil Rights issue of this century. … Empower parents with choice [in education options].”
One of the distinctions of Republians vs. Democrats: Republicans want options for families and accountability for the educators. My favorite line:
“… Help bad teachers find another line of work.”
He also stated that he wants to help good educators to be as effective as possible, removing barriers and compensatnig them appropriately.
“I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.”
If McCain is elected, he may become known as the most bipartisan and effective president in decades. This will undoubtedly be more difficult than the work he’s done on the House and Senate floors, but he’s willing.
“Get back up and fight again for my country and for the men I had the honor to serve with because every day they fought for me.”
This was a quote from his comrad in the POW camp after John had been broken. This should become a metafor to challenge America to fight on, and why. At the end of the speech, John makes that so.
“Nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”
Both candidates are probably going to repeat this kind of rhetoric (I suspect McCain is more likely to speak truthfully of this, but that’s just my opinion) because they know that many in our nation resonate with this statement. However, I doubt that enough people really do sometimes. The fact is, so many Americans are focused on themselves and their personal challenges (and granted, many of them are in real need, so that is understandable). We have had a couple of generations move into voting age these past couple of decades, where the priorities are very “me” centered. There are some, but few, who truly think of others before themselves. This is one of the core areas of decay in our society. If McCain, Obama, or both of them can influence and self-centered electorate to look outside themselves as they consider what is best for America, this will be a profoundly positive and successful election regardless of who wins.
“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, 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!”
This was the high-point of the speech. The crowd was going nuts through the whole paragraph, and John never faltered… he pushed right through and allowed the crowd to keep building and building to a crescendo that climaxed in my heart, and hopefully many many others as well.
If ever our country and the Republican Party needed this kind of encouragement it is now. As a country, we have struggled through 18 months or more of growing challenges that have impacted the worlds of so many people with the loss of homes, jobs, financial stability. Despite the continued success of the action in Iraq (or perhaps because of it), we have not been allowed as a country to stir to a real sense of the victory we are experiencing there. We don’t understand why so many people around the world hate us. And we are hurting more and more as our differences in political philosophy create a greater divide than I have ever seen.
As a Party, we are somewhat demoralized because of the losses in 2006. We are frustrated because the answers to our economic and energy problems seem so clear and yet refuted unendingly in the village square, in the press, in the ears of our representatives in Congress. We are angry because even when we’ve had control of Congress and the White House, we failed to get our agenda through. We don’t think we have a chance of winning the US Congress or many of our state legislatures this year. And we’re still not confident of our prospects of keeping the White House.
And as a result, many, many, many people seem like they are ready to give up. It’s frustrating to watch.
John says: “Fight!”. And I agree.
When things appear to be at their worst, we must fight. We must for the sake of our country, for our children, for future generations. Else we dishonor the generations past who fought for us.
The rally cry of this campaign needs to be “Fight!”.
Bithead has a great review  of the choice now before us.
There is a great deal more that John said in his speech. You can read the transcript here .