Before he can really get going, MSNBC shows a protester holding a sign that reads, "You Can't Win An Occupation." He begins with nods to his erstwhile opponents: "Their support is an honor that I won't forget." He praises Dubya (though not by name) for post-terror leadership and can't finish his sentence until a long outburst of applause is over. This is a Bushie crowd, so McCain sucks up to Laura, George H. and Barbara before regarding his own wife, whom he praises for her concern for the unfortunate. The video told us Mrs. M. had plucked one of her children from one of Mother Teresa's shelters in India. He applauds his mom, whose vitality at age 96 is his best argument for betting that he'll survive a full term.
He thanks undecided voters for tuning in. He tells Democrats that they have his "respect and admiration," echoing Obama by saying "more unites us than divides us." He predicts victory and promises to reach out afterward to anyone willing to help put the nation back on the road to prosperity and peace. He's interrupted by a demonstrator whose railings are drowned out by yells of "U!S!A! U!S!A!" He says Americans want us to stop yelling at each other. They want government to "stand on your side and not in your way." He praises Governor Palin as a reformer in his own image, apart from being the mother of five children. McCain "can't wait to introduce her to Washington." He warns the "me-first, country-second crowd" that "change is coming."
"I don't work for a party, I don't work for a special interest, I don't work for myself," he says, "I work for you." He fights corruption and big spending in both parties and will veto the first pork-barrel bill that lands on his desk. He's fought corruption in Congress, in the Pentagon, in labor unions, etc. But if he doesn't work for a party (and he may really believe this about himself), why not renounce the Republican party and run as an independent?
A shout-out to General Petreus is next for saving us from a demoralizing defeat that would have compromised U.S. security. He quotes himself saying he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. More fighting: for Americans who've lost their homes, who're struggling with kids with disabilities; for families of fallen soldiers.
Republicans "lost the trust of the American people" because, having come to change Washington, "Washington changed us." Too many people in both parties value power over principle, he says. He and Palin will recover the people's trust by recalling the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Reagan and "going back to basics."
"We're all God's children and we're all Americans," which means we believe in open markets, low taxes, people keeping the fruits of their labor, strong defense, work, faith, service and "a culture of life," and of course "personal responsibility." We also want an impartial rule of law, which means, "Don't legislate from the bench."
His opponent will raise taxes and spending, close markets, eliminate jobs and force families into government health care in which "a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor." American jobs can be kept from going overseas only by lowering taxes. Quality of life can be improved by reducing government spending.
McCain knows that many Americans have been left behind by the changing economy. He says Obama promises to bring back old jobs by "wishing away the global economy" while he'll create new jobs "that won't go away" and educate people to take advantage of new opportunities. He proposes subsidized retraining for displaced workers so they can get in on the new economy. Improved education depends on shaking up the public school bureaucracy and giving parents more choice of schools. "Let's help bad teachers find another line of work,"he suggests. Choices should include superior public schools as well as private schools and charter schools. While Obama allegedly would have schools answer to union bureaucrats, he'd have them answer to parents.
"The most ambitious national project in decades" will lead to our no longer sending billions of dollars to "countries that don't like us very much." This means drilling new wells offshore a.s.a.p.; more nuclear plants; more clean coal; more hybrid cars and electric automobiles;more wind and solar. Obama is foolish to want to do without more drilling and more nuclear. "Americans are ambitious by nature and have faced greater challenges in the past," so they ought to show the world "how Americans can lead" by creating millions of new jobs.
"We must see the threats to peace and liberty clearly," he insists, warning that al-Qaeda is not defeated. He warns about Iran's path toward nuclear power and Russia's corruption by oil and its ambition to monopolize more oil. "The brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and our prayers." He'll establish good relations with Russia, though, but he can't "turn a blind eye to lawlessness." He knows what the military can do better and what it shouldn't do (a subtle reference to torture?). He will draw on all the tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, military, economic, etc., -- to achieve a stable, lasting peace. Interestingly, he's gotten past this topic without criticizing Obama. He may feel confident enough of his own position to do without accusing the Democrat of being soft on terrorism.
He must be near wrapping up, because he's back to talking about his bipartisan efforts. He says "I have a record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not." But he suggests sharing the credit for good ideas instead of rejecting those that come from the other party. He promises to set a new standard of transparency and accountability. He says he "doesn't care who gets the credit" for reforms and calls himself "an imperfect public servant."
Did you know that John McCain was shot down in Vietnam and held prisoner there? Just in case you didn't, the senator discloses this little-known episode from his early career. He relates that, after rejecting an offer to be released ahead of others, he was beaten by his captors until "they broke me." This seems to mean that he couldn't strut the way he used to after torture sessions, and the ordeal left him feeling ashamed. He says he isn't running because he thinks he was anointed with personal greatness, though the video preceding his speech might say otherwise. He calls people to take up public service in myriad forms, from soldiering to teaching, because "nothing brings greater happiness than serving a cause greater than yourself." He wants to give every American cause to thank God (or whatever) they're Americans, and he invites everyone to "fight with me ... stand up and fight! ... never give up, never quit! ..." until the applause overwhelms him.
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McCain was clearly determined to play the good cop tonight, and will probably earn a good sized bounce for his effort. For the most part he accentuated the positive and kept within bounds regarding Obama, criticizing him on policy differences without "going negative" like Palin did. I think that, to an extent, the speech was an honest representation of what McCain would like to do as President, but only to a point. It was more about domestic policy than foreign policy, and there was no mention of his mad "league of democracies" idea and its warmongering implications. But there was a fundamental lie at the heart of the talk, or else an unwitting admission of weakness. The Republican insists that we view him as above party, and promises, in effect, to govern in non-partisan fashion. But he is the Republican candidate accepting the Republican nomination at the Republican national convention. So here's a friendly question someone might ask him: Senator McCain, why do you need the Republican Party? Why, especially when you say that the party has failed, has been changed beyond recognition, has for all intents and purposes become corrupted, do you insist on picking up its standard? Why can't you do without it? Why couldn't you and Senator Lieberman form the "Country First" party and cast defiance at all the Roves and Romneys along with all the Clintons and Obamas? Isn't your presence at this convention a confession of failure, of impotence? How can you hope to change Washington if you can't even change your party affiliation without fear of sinking into irrelevance?
Having said all that, I suppose it's a point in McCain's favor that we can even imagine interrogating him this way. With Obama it would be self-evidently absurd. The Democrat is a creature of his party and doesn't really pretend not to be. McCain makes a point of pretending not to be just another Republican, but the fact that he only pretends tells you that the American Bipolarchy has nothing to fear from him.