R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


RNC: Day 4 (Fight with me!)
5.September.2008, 4.07 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags: , , ,
John McCain makes his way through Hurricane Palin on Thursday night at the RNC.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
John McCain makes his way through Hurricane Palin on Thursday night at the RNC.

“My friends,” we knew most of this going in.

John McCain is not a great orator. John McCain’s body language is awkward. John McCain’s attempts to rally the base seem unconvincing, while he seems most at ease when talking of bipartisanship and “reaching across the aisle,” which the base is not too interested in. John McCain’s campaign is just not good at backdrops — he was back in front of a lime green sea once again Thursday night, months after being mocked incessantly on the cable outlets for a similar scene.

But, then again, John McCain’s not your average politician, and he doesn’t need to be.

Seldom has there been a more stark difference in styles: Barack Obama’s cool, laid-back attitude and utter mastery of cadence; McCain’s stilted but (dare I say it?) straightforward speaking style and his obvious grasp of the seriousness of his task. And this speech was no different: The biggest rounds of applause he got all night were when he mentioned Sarah Palin, and later when he was joined onstage by Sarah Palin.

His speech, like hers, was relatively short on policy — and unfortunately, in my view, the policy he did offer often sounded like Republican boilerplate (“Education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century” is almost word for word from Bush circa 2000) — but it was candid, and lighthearted, and certainly helped to reinforce the idea that this is a man of CHARACTER. It’s hard to imagine someone telling you all about their POW days (especially after it was told by others constantly over the course of three days) without seeming boastful or arrogant, but he did. In fact, it was the best part of the speech, I think… it doesn’t give you a good reason to vote for him, but it at least gives you the sense that if he wins, it’s going to be OK.

Where Obama is too cocky, McCain seems a little too comfortable dealing in generalities (tax cuts are good, health care reform is bad), but I was thankful he’s stopped quesitoning Obama’s patriotism and instead shifted to why people should invest their time FOR McCain and not against Obama. Yet his was a speech urging people to vote AGAINST something: Against “Washington,” a “culture of corruption,” a “do-nothing” Congress and politics as usual.

Two very different men, two very similar messages — and one overarching question: Can either of these guys really change the system — and will they?

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