Last night, I sat a few rows behind elected delegates on the floor at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul Minnesota where Senator John McCain accepted his party’s nomination for President of the United States.
In all, the night was somewhat less charged than the previous; the night that featured Governor Sarah Palin saw speeches from Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and the Alaskan Governor herself. Last night featured a handful of moderately important senators and governors, but the speech by Cindy McCain who would be first lady sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. It nearly put me to sleep. Mrs. McCain clutched the microphone tightly with both hands and read her speech awkwardly from teleprompters telling the audience about her warm feelings about her husband. McCain ran in 2000 and had an extended run, obviously in this primary season, yet Cindy McCain is still not ready for prime time.
John McCain’s speech was direct and outlined his case for President. His record of military service and sacrifice for country is incomparable, he says, to that of the “community organizer” from Chicago.
For some time, I was confused by the McCain campaign’s lack of ability, or want, to match Barack Obama’s brilliant and attention-gathering campaign. Why was McCain not responding directly with massive rallies, trans-Atlantic trips, and buzz-generating speeches? Was it a factor of the campaign’s failure to reach voters? Perhaps. But, I think that the McCain campaign may have had a strategy of letting Obama’s star burn bright while they would sustain and build their campaign reliably and with a moderate tone. Why would they do this? I think that John McCain’s campaign did this purposefully to allow the election to become a referendum on Obama. If Obama got more attention, the question would be “is this the change we’re looking for and do we take a chance on him”. The difference in experience between Obama and McCain is striking and therefore when the ballot question has been defined, McCain is able to step in to answer the specific question they intended to shape on Barack Obama.
In my opinion, the most effective lines from McCain’s speech were:
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.
“I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.”
The speech ended using a method that caused a crescendo of applause for the Senator:
“I’m going to fight for my cause every day as your President. I’m going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank Him: that I’m an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on earth, and with hard work, strong faith and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.”
crowd rises to their feet and applauds.
“Fight with me.”
“Fight with me.”
almost literally says “louder”
“Fight for what’s right for our country.”
“Fight” is an action word that evokes a call to action and a sense that McCain and the crowd are doing this together.
“Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.”
Each “fight for” line enunciates values important to Republicans and to those who can put McCain over the top in November and elect him President in November.
“Fight for our children’s future.”
“Fight for justice and opportunity for all.”
“Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.”
“Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America”
Fight, now stand up. Literally stand up. Cheering louder.
“Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight.”
Elections are about engagement for participating in making a change that one can believe in. Each “stand up” emphasized with pause to get the crowd to get even louder and build excitement.
“Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.”
Message of unity and common purpose in order to act together to elect McCain.
“Thank you, and God Bless you.”
Here are some of my photos from McCain’s speech last night:
Being a non-partisan international observer of the process was still quite exciting. Americans do these events and speeches like nobody else. Barack Obama addressed a stadium of 80,000 in Denver and both racked in millions of viewers. McCain, however, had a slight edge in TV viewership.