Perhaps, I shouldn’t have talked to anyone before I reached my own conclusions about the speech. I have to say I liked it, though not nearly as much as I liked Sarah Palin’s last night. Still, it moved me more than I had expected it to.
Was it the speech, a week of constant blogging or the sadness in realizing today was the last day of a convention where I met and befriended many people whom I had only previously known as pixels on a screen which caused me to pause, sit back (or stand up) as the case may be and focus on the speech and not considering how to formulate a verbal reaction to it.
I watched, I listened, I was moved. I was not wowed as I had been last night, leaving on Cloud Nine, floating out of the Xcel Center, so dazed I headed in the wrong direction at one freeway interchange. Then, I was full of energy, exuberant, ecstatic almost.
Tonight, I was more subdued. It was a much different speech, a much different leader delivering it.
Sarah Palin’s was clearly the best speech of the convention. This was only one of the best, better certainly than Barack Obama’s last week, not as good as Fred Thompson’s or Rudy Giuliani’s this week.
Perhaps, that’s because there was less excitement about this speech. People tuned into Palin’s speech, curious about her because of the stories circulating in the media about that good woman. Americans wanted to see who she was. Not just that, as blogger Josh Trevino put it, “we know McCain, and there is no anticipation of the new” (via Instapundit).
As I left my spot on the rafters and descended to join my friends at the Pajamas TV booth, something struck me about the speech. It may be significant. Or it may mean nothing at all. I was struck by what I will call his “framing device.” He began and ended the speech with acknowledgement, expressions of gratitude.
At the beginning, he acknowledged his rivals for the Republican nomination and expressed his gratitude to the president and his family. He concluded by acknowledging his fellow POW Bob Craner, telling us how that good man “saved” him.
Maybe I read too much into this, but it says a lot of a man that he frames this speech by acknowledging how much he owes to others, showing how grateful he is for their love, their inspiration, their support, their compassion. He knows, more, he recognizes what he owes to others. For no one who has achieved any measure of success in any given endeavor could have accomplished anything without the support of others.
Devoting so much time in a speech of this significance suggests a certain humility, something we don’t see in many politicians, particularly this election cycle.
No, John McCain didn’t wow us. And maybe he didn’t need to. When I spoke with Powerline‘s John Hinderaker after the speech, he thought the conversational style might be more effective that something which had us stomping our feet and pumping our fists. “This,” he said “was not a speech that was pitched to political sophisticates at all. It was aimed at the middle.” Â (After finishing this post, I read his post on the speech. Â Highly recommended.)
I think he’s onto something. We who write about such things immediately ask will such a speech work. But, we don’t really know. We can only pretend to speak for the great majority of Americans watching on their televisions across our great nation. But, they follow politics as do we. They don’t think about appealing to this or that interest groups or the composition of particular sentences.
Peter Robinson seemed to agree with John’s assessment, calling it “not an address. It was a talk.:
Tonight McCain used simple, declarative sentences. He made no attempt to achieve high effects. He was himself. Nobody will ever include this speech in an anthology of great American addresses, but it was an accomplished work, a work of political maturity.
That sounds about right.
Yuval Levin said it was a pretty good speech in a very good week. I agree.
So, I leave you with this question? What does it say about a man who begins and ends what some have defined as the most important speech of his career with gratitude for the individuals who have helped shape, if not save, his life?
I think it shows a man ready to lead. But that could just be my partisanship talking. Or be a reflection of the admiration I have gained for John McCain is the course of this campaign.