Friday, September 05, 2008

Thoughts on the Republican Convention: McCain's acceptance speech

I've watched Arizona Senator John McCain accepting the nomination to be the Republican presidential candidate. You can watch the speech here:

Here is the transcript of McCain's acceptance speech.

Bottom line here is that McCain's speech was awful. McCain's speech had nothing but vague generalities of change in Washington, even though the Republicans have held control of the White House for the past eight years and control of Congress for the past six years. McCain presented almost no policy issues, with the exception of continuing the endless war in Iraq, start a new cold war with Russia, and drill, drill, drill. McCain called himself "a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," while failing to acknowledge that he has voted with Bush 100 percent of the time in 2008, and 95 percent of the time in 2007. McCain claimed that he "fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes," while also failing to acknowledge that McCain withheld controversial Abramoff emails from an Indian Affairs report in order to protect Republican colleagues. It was a disjointed speech, starting with McCain talking about how he is a "maverick," then attacking Obama, then calling himself a man of change as he presented a vague generalities of a third Bush term agenda. The last third of the speech was taken up by McCain's POW story, and how his Vietnam POW experience brought introduced him to his love for his country, and his own blind ambition for becoming president. McCain ended the speech calling for his supporters at the convention to fight. The supporters loved it.

The problem for John McCain is not that he delivered a bad speech, but rather that he delivered a bad speech for the wrong type of people. First, there were too many themes running through the speech--John McCain is a maverick, John McCain is a fighter, John McCain will bring change, John McCain was a POW. Here is where the speech felt disjointed as McCain's speechwriters tried to cram too much theme in a speech that lasted almost an hour. When you go back to Barack Obama's acceptance speech, Obama weaves in a theme of "Change We Can Believe In" with a specific political policy agenda that Obama promises to implement if he is elected. Obama's speech flows very well in its style and context. McCain's speech is choppy.

But the greatest problem for McCain's acceptance speech is that it was written for the wrong type of people. Reading through this speech, I am struck by the thought that the McCain speechwriters crafted this speech to solidify the Republican conservative base around McCain's nomination. The problem here is that the conservative base already solidified itself around the McCain campaign through vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. McCain should have used this speech to deliver his own message of change, and political agenda, to the moderates and independents. McCain should have presented a strong political agenda as to what he planned to do when elected. But since 3/4s of the American public believe that the country is on the wrong track, after eight years of Bush scandals, mismanagement, and failures, John McCain can't run on a political platform of completely supporting the Bush agenda. So the McCain campaign has to write an acceptance speech that is long on phrases of change, maverick, POW, and fight, while completely absent of political policies that John McCain would implement in office. So instead of soliciting the votes of moderates and independents, the McCain campaign is going back to the hard-core conservatives, thinking that there will be enough of them to elect McCain into office.

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