Reaction to last night's McCain speech
I felt like I watched a visually interesting but poorly written History Channel episode about the Heroes of the 1960s Generation. The "McCain bio" video was the only really effective sequence during the two hours I watched.
Did you see Cindy McCain's interminable introduction of her husband? Her inauthentic, choppy delivery from the teleprompter was embarrassing -- so embarrassing that I, a Democratic partisan, felt sorry for her. Even the RNC audience looked fully bored.
Then there was reaction from the PBS crew, who took the high ground and did not comment on the woeful quality of Cindy's speech. But they looked kind of shocked.
Then there was the slickly-produced John McCain bio, covering his military family, his service in Viet "Nam" (got to have the long "a" to diss the Vietnamese peoples' pronunciation), his capture, and then his five and a half years as a POW, and then a bit of his political accomplishments. I liked how this History Channel bit worked with his "I'm an imperfect man" part of the speech.
Watching the History Channel bit, I said, "It's a good thing he didn't go over there and kill 500 Viet Cong. That wouldn't make a very good story."
Then he entered and gave his speech, with his arm movements still limited because of the Vietnam War crash -- that was an effective detail. As he spoke, I thought he was charismatic, and instead of his facial tics getting out of hand -- in previous speeches he has smiled at weird times and blinked quickly as well -- his smile seemed actually genuine, although not much to look at. He seemed to be enjoying the moment, and his timing, when compared to his wife, seemed fantastic, which is to say his timing was only manageable.
The content of his speech was an absolute joke. I didn't think he had any zingers against Obama, but his surrogates Fred Thompson and toothy-man Rudy Guiliani already covered that character-assassination ground (though I didn't see those speeches). His completely cynical appropriation of the word "change" was absolutely without credence, but expected, and his RNC delegates -- who think George W. Bush and the country are just doing fine -- roared just like they roared on command for George W. Bush's weird taped speech.
I could not more strongly believe that McCain will not bring any change. Since 2000, when he took his beating from Bush and Rove, he has cynically compromised all of his "reform" principles in the name of ambition. The Obama campaign is running an ad with McCain bragging on video that he "voted wtih George Bush 90% of the time." So, you went with your party on everything except for pointing out that Iraq lacked enough troops -- could that have been more obvious in 2004? -- and that the solution to illegal immigration might not be deporting millions of Hispanic people currently living in the US.
On a host of other issues, McCain vacillated to the party faithful with cringe-worthy abandon. He created the compromise to give Bush the right to torture who Bush wanted. He led the compromise for fake kangaroo courts in Guantanamo. (Nice idea -- let's just have the courts run by the military and held outside of the US!) He shifted on the idiotic Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich right as the Iraq War was getting started. He looked the other way at Bush Administration excesses: war profiteering from Halliburton, murder of Iraqi civilians by KBR contractors, the disappearance of billions of US taxpayer dollars in Iraq, politicization of the Department of Justice with partisan hacks.
Put it this way: when Bush brought disastrous policies, McCain supported Bush, and supported the disastrous policies, and wants to continue those policies. YOU CALL THAT CHANGE?!
The actual change in policies McCain mentioned in the speech were equally disingenuous, but for a different reason: McCain is a crotchety old man and does not pay attention to issues outside of his political interests, which are 1) foreign policy and the military adventures; 2) limiting "special interests" (i.e. McCain-Feingold); and to a lesser extent 3) ethics reform, except for Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and other Republican lawbreakers. In the speech, the other ideas he said he'd "change" -- the size of the government, the economy, education, alternative fuels, and energy costs -- he simply has no genuine interest in. In the tradition of George Bush, he's just not that smart or curious, and that has real effects; mainly, THE STATUS QUO REMAINS THE SAME. It takes a lot of initiative to get something done, and George W. Bush worked hard to invade Iraq, for example, and Iraq has been the sole focus of his administration since.
All this said, at the end of the speech, I noted, "I'm kind of convinced that he won't be as bad as Bush."
To this my wife Jess said, "Yes, but a person would really have to try to do that." She's right. Barack Obama isn't going to bring about radical change (thankfully -- Bush already did that), but he's certainly the change candidate. I'm just praying that the polls say he's up 10% at least come November, because a 5-10% percentage of the American electorate is going to disregard issues and vote for a "not too bad" white man over a black man. That's just how it is, but it's weird -- do you want Sarah Palin with her finger on the button?