Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain Addresses His Friends

When I look at the McCain-Palin logo, it reminds me of a certain corporate logo:




My first thought as I watch the RNC is -- and I hate to say this because it's been said so often -- McCain looks old. He has some nice words about Palin, but I think the Atlantic Monthly's moderate conservative Andrew Sullivan nailed it when he said, "I'm sorry but when he speaks of Palin he seems as if he's praising a very promising student."

And I can't stand when conservatives talk about how liberals want to let bureaucrats stand between us and our doctors. How the hell is the HMO system any different?

And the more I watch how flat he is on stage, and how old and bland he looks against a blue background (it's supposed to be blue sky, but it just looks blank), the more I'm convinced he picked Sarah Palin as a running mate to take the news coverage off Obama's stellar speech the night before. I think the timing was planned and the decision was calculated to be sensational.

McCain is going need a lot more of that if he wants the media to pay attention to him. Obama -- agree with him or not -- may be the most charismatic and commanding presence the Democrats have seen since Kennedy. He's just that good in front of an audience. Bill Clinton had presence, but not like this.

He's the kind of candidate who can say Al Gore-esque technical things in ways that sound inspiring instead of wearying and condescending. I think that when McCain has to debate him, he will effortlessly make the Republican look old, scatter-brained, and slow-witted.

A survey of live online political coverage so far agrees with my general assessment:
Ramesh Ponnuru (National Review): "No New Cold War" -- Smart to have that line in there. But overall I'm finding the speech flat.

Michael Crowley (The New Republic): It's not over yet but this is a very underwhelming speech. Familiar points explained in pedestrian terms. No overarching themes--right now it's sounding like a State of the Union laundry list. Even the crowd in the hall isn't jazzed. This is the sort of reception Tom Ridge got.

Andrew Sullivan (Atlantic Monthly): We have half an hour left of this convention and I still don't know what he is proposing to do.
Of course I'm being slightly selective, but until he got to his P.O.W. story, the speech wasn't special.

The P.O.W. story? Creepy. It just made me uncomfortable. I think it was a mistake.

And finally, the spastic conclusion (Fight! Fight! Fight!) seemed really awkward. The New Republic's Michael Crowley made a bizarre observation:
A fascinating footnote: McCain's storied speechwriter Mark Salter was seated in the front row tonight, perhaps 20 feet from John McCain. I didn't notice him until the closing minute or two of the speech, but as McCain reached his text's conclusion, Salter leapt up and assumed the role of an orchestra conductor leading a wild crescendo. With McCain reaching his closing refrain of "fight... fight... fight... stand up... stand up... stand up..." Salter was on feet, back totally stiff, clapping furiously. I could see him shouting the words from memory along with his candidate. In the speech's final moments Salter was posessed [sic], pounding a fist rhythmically into his palm, and, finally, thrusting his clenched fist downward at moments of emphasis, obviously flush with an incredible intensity. It was, frankly, lot more stirring than watching McCain himself.
I actually think Palin made the more rousing speech.

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