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.