Friday, September 05, 2008

That Other Speech


John McCain is not known as a great orator, and tonight's speech offered no one cause to reconsider him on those terms. That doesn't mean it was a bad speech. Just means he's not a rock star in the speechifying department, that's all.

What he is is a patriot -- a man with a deep love of country, a love which he credits to his experiences as a POW -- and that came through in his acceptance speech.

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.


Think I'm hypocritical for appreciating that quality in him? Well, feel free to think what you like. The fact that I'm able to overcome instinct and conditioning1 in favor of reason doesn't make me entirely immune to the pull of either, nor would I want it to. Real patriotism grabs me by the balls. That's just the way it is.

Not that I believe that "war hero," POW, or even basic honorable veterans' credentials are prerequisites to the presidency -- and neither do the Republicans or we'd never have seen George W. Bush or Dick Cheney within a mile of the White House -- but they at least get those who possess them a respectful hearing from me.

It is McCain's distinct personal misfortune to have grasped his party's nomination at a time when those qualities don't carry much weight, having been cynically abused and appealed to by the Bush administration in its seven-year effort to turn America into East Germany Part Deux at home and the Golden Horde Part Deux abroad.

That's not the first time McCain's been screwed over by Bush in much the same way. I first began to realize what a turd Bush really is back in 2000 when he allowed his campaign to try to make up for his own dishonorable military record (specifically, desertion) by spreading scurrilous rumors about McCain's military record in North Carolina after McCain beat him in the New Hampshire primary (a technique he perfected in action four years later versus John Kerry, and now well-known as "Swiftboating").

But anyway ... good speech as such things go, but it won't save McCain. The only way for McCain to win is to make this race all about Barack Obama, 24/7. If it's about John McCain, well, John McCain loses. George W. Bush has severely devalued McCain's primary credentials in nearly every area, and Barack Obama has painted McCain as the second coming of George W. Bush.

The Palin pick was supposed to be a game-changer, but it's already going south on him. The brighter the spotlight on her gets, the more apparent it becomes that, as one commenter on this blog noted, "the bitch is a fruitcake."

That wouldn't be as big a problem as it is if McCain wasn't showing his age ... but he is, big-time. By November, it is going to be very much on voters' minds that a vote for McCain is likely also a vote for Palin to serve out his unexpired term if, as is likely, he's laid low by a heart attack or stroke or some other septuagenarian-style affliction.

Given the speed with which Palin has gone from "fresh new face" to, in the words of one wag, "Dan Quayle with mammaries" -- and headed fast toward forcing Gary Larson out of retirement by mid-October just to keep up with her descent into weirdness -- she'd be a drag on any ticket. But she's utter poison to this ticket for the simple reason that if elected she's as likely to find herself promoted in four or eight months as in four or eight years. By November, a majority of American voters are likely to express sheer horror at that prospect -- and vote accordingly.

Which, really, is a shame. I don't think McCain would necessarily make a good president (as I've said before, I'm not sure there's any such thing), but I do think he's a good man: More honest than most of those who clamber as high up the political ladder as he has, and, no matter how misguided, probably reasonably well-intentioned. But in the Great Poker Game that is American politics, the Bush administration dealt him a pair of deuces, and dealt his "major party" opponent a straight flush. Then he failed to improve his hand with his VP pick. He'll go all in anyway, of course, and who can blame him? He always has, and his age this is the last hand he'll ever play. I don't have to want him to win to feel badly that this is the way he goes out.

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Notes

1. I was conditioned at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, in 1985 and served in the Corps for a decade, including as an infantry NCO in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

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