The McCain Speech

I hate these schmaltzy videos. Volume off.

OMG, you mean McCain was a POW? Wow. Who knew?

I realized tonight that I am older than Cindy McCain. Depressing. I skipped her speech because I was watching the replay of last night’s Project Runway. How was it?

Note to self — when I’m old and gray, no double strands of pearls. Ever. They make you look like Barbara Bush.

Did you know McCain was a POW? They should talk about this more often.

The Dems had more flags. The GOP has more White People.

OOO, somebody has a “McCain votes against vets” sign.

He’s praising Bush for keeping us safe from terriers.

Mama McCain looks amazing for 96.

Somebody poke me when McCain says something substantive.

What’s going on in the audience?

“Please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and the static.” Please don’t be distracted by somebody exercising her first amendment rights.

What’s with the “USA USA” chanting?

Again, somebody poke me when McCain says something substantive.

I believe that if McCain announced he could pick his own nose, the delegates would give him a standing ovation.

He fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes? He fought Abramoff and Ralph Reed?

Lots of vacant bleachers in that hall.

How could withdrawal from Iraq have “risked a wider war”?

Has he said anything substantive yet?

Gawd, I’m bored.

Oh, he says he doesn’t believe in government that makes choices for us. Unless you’re pregnant.

McCain: Lie lie lie lie lie lie lie.

McCain: My plan is better. Trust me. Don’t bother yourself about the details.

He still hasn’t said anything substantive. Oh, he’s going to send people to community colleges for re-training. For WHAT?

The re-education thing is a crock. No point re-educating people for jobs that don’t exist.

He’s supporting school vouchers? That’s so last year.

McCain, in a nutshell: When I’m president, everybody gets a pony.

Has he said anything substantive yet?

Republicans wear more stupid hats than Dems do.

He used to be a POW!

Audience: Drunk or bored. No middle ground.

He used the word change.

The constant partisan rancor … that the GOP thrives on.

McCain: I’m better than Obama. Trust me.

Gawd, this is an awful speech.

BooMan has a response.

I had no idea he used to be a POW.

This is a dreadful speech. It’s not just the delivery, which is clunky. The speech itself is bad.

I will never forgive the North Vietnamese for this. I hope they’re watching.

Oh, please, make it stop.

History has anointed him to save the country in its hour of need? Is that what he just said?

Some moran is holding up a sign saying “mavrick.”

Oh, we’re saved. He’s done.

Did he say anything substantive?

My instant analysis — he spoke of many economic problems, but he didn’t speak to them, or provide anything resembling plans for solving them.

Josh Marshall: “I question the wisdom of not letting anyone in the auditorium under 50.”

Ron Beasley: “John McCain and the Republicans had better hope that most people were watching the football game.”

The bobbleheads are asking if the speech worked outside the hall. I don’t think it did. It was boring and content-free.

There was a list of vague objectives — jobs, cheaper energy, health care — no indication he has half a clue how to do these things.

The In Crowd

There’s a lot of excellent commentary about Sarah Palin’s speech on the Web today. A consensus is forming that the speech may have been great for the hall but didn’t reach out to the rest of America. For example, Steve Benen said,

Going into the speech, I expected Palin to try to connect to a mainstream audience, demonstrating competence, credibility, and readiness. She already enjoys the support of the GOP base; Palin has to work on convincing everyone else.

And yet, she (or, more accurately, the McCain campaign aides who wrote her speech) went in a different direction, aiming to shore up the party’s base even more. Instead of seriousness, Palin went for biting and sarcastic partisanship. Instead of presenting herself as a trustworthy leader, Palin proved herself an attack-dog ideologue. Instead of answering questions about readiness, she answered questions about who she hates and how much. Palin not only steered clear of the concerns of swing voters, she practically thumbed her nose at them.

What’s more, Palin did this with a strikingly dishonest speech, filled with the kind of obvious and transparent falsehoods that even half-way knowledgeable observers can debunk off the top of their heads. Palin didn’t just lie, she lied brazenly, as if to say, “I don’t care.”

I wrote in the last post why small-town Americans might not take to Palin as quickly as the GOP seems to assume they will. Probably some will, but some will be turned off by the “mean girl” persona.

Nate at FiveThirtyEight also has some good commentary on why Palin’s speech might have fallen flat with independents:

I think some of you are underestimating the percentage of voters for whom Sarah Palin lacks the standing to make this critique of Barack Obama. To many voters, she is either entirely unknown, or is known as an US Weekly caricature of a woman who eats mooseburgers and has a pregnant daughter. To change someone’s opinion, you have to do one of two things. Either, you have to be a trusted voice of authority, or you have to persuade them. Palin is not a trusted voice of authority — she’s much too new. But neither was this a persuasive speech. It was staccato, insistent, a little corny. It preached to the proverbial choir. It was also, as one of my commentors astutely noted, a speech written by a man and for a man, but delivered by a woman, which produces a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.

The story is that the speech was a generic vice-president speech written before the Palin announcement and then adapted for Palin. If true, I think that’s extremely weird.

This was a very small sample, but the independents on a Detroit Free Press panel were not impressed.

McCain is not a great orator, so expectations for his speech tonight are not high. Even so, what he does with this speech will be telling. In order to reach out to persuadable “swing” voters, IMO he needs to show he understands peoples’ economic concerns and has some idea what he’s going to do to address them. He needs also to persuade listeners that his administration would not be a copy of George Bush’s. I think some vague noises about “reform” and “change” are not going to do that; he needs to call out specifics.

If, on the other hand, he dedicates the bulk of his speech to what a great commander-in-chief he will make but provides little in the way of specific economic ideas, this will be a speech to the base, not the country. Yes, they need to energize the base, but they can’t win with just the base. Surely they know that.

Or maybe they just want to talk to themselves. They’re the only ones who like them.


I’m watching Howard Fineman on MSNBC. He’s pissed. GOP operatives are trying to intimidate the press into laying off reporting on Palin. He’s really pissed.

One Small-Town Girl to Another

The town I grew up in had, as I recall, a population of about 4,500. Since I moved away it has merged with three other nearby towns to form a municipality of 7,861, spread out over 20 square miles. When I was growing up the nearest city, St. Louis, was at least an hour and a half away by car. The school districts of the four towns merged back in the 1960s, which caused my graduating class to jump from maybe 20 kids to (I’m going from hazy memory here) about 80. Yee-haw.

I bring this up to establish my small-town cred. Now, my impression of Sarah Palin:

There’s someone like her in every small town — the alpha female who organizes all the bake sales and parades and Pancake Day and around whom the town’s society, if you want to call it that, swirls. Other women defer to her because she’s more energetic and assertive than they, and she’s probably very good at organizing the bake sales and parades and Pancake Day. They probably admire her for that.

But they don’t necessarily like her.

Watching Palin last night, especially when the family — including the pregnant daughter and boyfriend — joined her on the stage, made me wonder if small-town women would love her, as the GOP hopes, or whether she would remind them of that pushy Sally Ledbetter whom they’ve wanted secretly to tell off since high school. I think it could go either way.

The unmarried pregnant daughter factor probably doesn’t shock too many people. In small, isolated, conservative towns, pregnant teenagers are as constant as sun and rain. But it does make Palin seem no-larger-than-life. Meaning, she’s no Hillary Clinton.

Palin has lived her life as a big fish in a small pond. Now she’s in the ocean, where there are other fish a whole hell of a lot bigger than she is. She may not have realized this yet. She’s going to be on an interesting learning curve the next couple of months.

What struck me about last night’s speech was a lack of the Vision Thing. She didn’t talk about America as much as she talked about herself and John McCain, with some cheap digs at Obama. To connect with voters she presented herself as someone you might run into at the Rotary Club picnic. What I didn’t hear was that she had a clue about the real kitchen-table concerns of the people on the other side of the television screen.

She used the words “change” and “reform” a lot, but for the life of me I can’t tell what changes in Washington she wants to make. It sounded more like the same old wingnut shit. Cut taxes. Cut more taxes. Cut essential services. Cut taxes again. Promise “small government,” whatever they mean by that. They’ve been promising small government for at least 30 years, and it ain’t getting smaller.

I think Americans are in the mood for a government that can actually do something other than start wars. And I think small-town Americans realize that being chief executive of the United States is a lot more difficult than organizing Pancake Day.

Eve Fairbanks writes at TNR:

That’s the problem with the positive case Palin made for herself, with its emphasis on all that small-town stuff: It convinced me that she makes a good PTA mom, that she may make a fine mayor, that she hasn’t totally bombed as the essentially brand-new governor of the third-least-populous state in the Union, even that I might like to have a beer with her, or a glass of fermented whale milk or whatever one drinks with mooseburgers. But just because we’re a nation of a hundred thousand Wasillas doesn’t mean all those hundred thousand mayors ought to be in the White House. Tonight, she sounded for all the world like an unusually sharp version of those “regular people” they drag onstage at conventions to tell their stories in the off-primetime hours.

I don’t think we need to bring Palin down by ridiculing her, tempting though that might be. It would just buy her sympathy. We need to let the American people know when she’s lying (I’m still waiting for the fact checks on her speech), but other than that, just step aside and let America have a good look at her.