McCain's Big Speech

John McCain helped restore his reputation for straight talk when he finally referred the GOP sin that dare not speak its name: "I am grateful to the president of the United States…" Of course, not even McCain could call the president by name: the only Bush mentioned by name was Laura.

McCain can be forgiven for holding a grudge against the incumbent president. The GOP’s numbers are in the tank largely because of the president’s unpopularity. McCain can’t really run as a Republican and expect to win. McCain was reaching out to unaffiliated voters last night, to independent swing voters, the people who say that they vote for the person and not for the party, and he did so by presenting his biography, not his platform.


John McCain is a hero. No doubt about that. Every time we watch the evident stiffness in his shoulders as he waves, we are reminded of what he suffered as a POW. That is the prism through which he wants us to view him, but it tells us next to nothing about the prism through which he views America and its problems. We all want to see peace and prosperity return. The question is: How?

John McCain again reverts to biography to paint the future and so he is a maverick as well as a hero. The word was repeated over and over again, like a mantra, last night. The maverick image was tied to the image of rugged, Western individualism by Cindy McCain in her speech when she suggested that there was nothing the American people can’t do for themselves "if only the federal government gets itself under control and out of our way." Okay, Ms. McCain. Writing from Washington, I want to get out of your way. Let’s start by closing down the federal government’s Central Arizona Project which brings water from the Colorado River to Phoenix. What? Phoenix (and Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, etc.) can’t survive without that water? The myth of western individualism versus the federal government is one of the most tired and easily exposed falsehoods in American history.

The video that introduced McCain repeated the maverick trope but, curiously, it did not mention a single piece of legislation. There were times when McCain was a legislative maverick. He teamed with Democrat Russ Feingold to pass campaign finance reform, but mentioning that might have elicited boo’s from the GOP faithful. McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, which was the mark of a maverick, but in order to win the nomination he had to change his position. McCain stood up against the right wing of his party to push for comprehensive immigration reform, but that earlier support would have also received boo’s in the convention hall and, like the tax cuts, McCain has backtracked from his original maverick stance. So, McCain was a maverick, but it is difficult to see how he is now.

Vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech the night before was effective in many ways but most especially in her frequent invocation of the simple pronoun "we." When she spoke about small town America, about families, about conservatives, she effectively included herself in the group. McCain, who like our Father in heaven has many mansions, was stuck talking in the second person when he addressed the issue on most people’s minds, the economy. "These are tough times for many of you. You’re worried about keeping your job or finding a new one, and you’re struggling to put food on the table and stay in your home." It lacked the emotive power of Palin’s speech entirely.

McCain did get emotional when he spoke about the former Soviet republic of Georgia and most especially when discussing Iraq. But, Iraq is a war that most Americans believe should never have been fought and which they want to end. That McCain’s most impassioned lines came on an issue where he is so clearly out of touch with the American people made him seem very out of touch. His passion to end earmarks may strike a better note with voters, but it will do next to nothing to balance the federal government’s budget and fix the economy.

For Catholics, there was the explicit call to create a "culture of life." But, the more important appeal to Catholics came from the prominence given to McCain adopted daughter, who Cindy McCain found in one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages. Mother Teresa is, with John Paul II, the most revered Catholic of recent memory and the picture of Cindy McCain talking with Mother Teresa lingered across the jumbotron screen.

Given the shameful way that George W. Bush defeated John McCain in 2000, you could not help feeling that a wrong had been righted as McCain accepted his party’s nomination. But, the John McCain of 2008 is a far cry from the John McCain of 2000. Then, he truly was a maverick. Today, saying it won’t make it so.

Michael Sean Winters



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10 years 4 months ago
Come on now Mr. Winters, in previous articles you have shown yourself to be above low-level innuendo. So, why in the world did you disdainfully refer to the McCain’s adopted daughter as someone “... who Cindy McCain found in one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages.” Did Mother Teresa loose the child? Or, maybe Cindy “found” her when Cindy was looking for a memento to bring home to one of their many mansions .As you say in another lower-level comment earlier in the piece, “ McCain, who like Our Father in heaven has many mansion ....” Mr. Winters you can do better than this. Bill Isenberger Scottsdale, AZ
10 years 4 months ago
The sarcasm in these columns is getting thicker by the day- must mean the elections are getting closer! Yes, tackiness has been on great display in both campaigns and conventions. From Sen Biden's scrappy Scranton story (Mr. Winters, your remarks about mansions are amusing but please, anyone who can afford daily Amtrak in this day and age are far removed from their blue collar days) to the McCain adoption hyperdrama last night, both parties have only proven that they know how to take advantage of a TV nation. The great sadness in all of this that neither party can seriously lay claim to the hearts of observant Catholics. Here are snippets from Sen. Obama's latest radio ads: “Let me tell you: If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the lives and health of women will be put at risk. That's why this election is so important” “John McCain's out of touch with women today. McCain wants to take away our right to choose. That's what women need to understand. That's how high the stakes are.” being "pro-choice" equals being in touch with women today. So much for the catholic and evangelical and thinking person's outreach by the Democrats... On the other side, we are being told in a thinly veiled comeback against the torture question that how dare we question the rights of terrorists. Torture of the unborn and presumed support of torture of the born... Our Lord said some things are only driven out by prayer and fasting. With the apathy of our two party system, that really seems to be the case.
10 years 4 months ago
For the sake of balance, what are your thoughts on Mr. Obama?
10 years 4 months ago
I saw the speech and was impressed by John McCain's demeanor; he was happy, even tempered, and triumphant - he certainly looked presidential. I like his call to trounce ''pork'' and name the ''porkers''. I noticed he didn't even mention ''Bush'', something that I feel ambivalent about - isn't the Republican party now the party of Bush? Can he win without the Bush Republicans or will they switch so easily in hope of being somewhere in the Palace? All this stuff about suffering McCain the hero; certainly he has a story of what prison life is about. Would this apply equally to all those North Vietnamese who were similarly imprisioned, abused, and killed? Or to those incarcarated in Guantanamo Bay or prisons in Iraq? Abu Gharib, for instance. Or, the Palistinians in Israel or even all the people in Gaza or all those who suffered the holocaust-Just what is a hero? It can be heroic to endure for the truth but I don't recall Elie Wiesel even claiming or allowing heroic status to himself for his trials; and he was innocent in respect to a guy who was dropping bombs on people. John McCain pro-life as he self-claims? Only in a very limited sense and even that aspect is under suspicion; sure, he and Cindy did a good deed in adopting a child; they also get a lot of milage out of it and Mother Theresa. How does he not support a universal medical system that will lead to a better life, nay, even a life for so many millions? How does continue to support the huge social sin of the wars Bush has drummed up and instigated? Hundreds of billions that could have gone to support life have gone to support destruction and carnage. John McCain hates war but he urged the war he still supports - a war that will be job security for the military for 100 years. John McCain hates pork, but one word about the no-bid contracts for billions for Iraq?
10 years 4 months ago
the John McCain of 2008 is a far cry from the John McCain of 2000. Then, he truly was a maverick. Today, saying it won’t make it so. I've never been a Republican but I did respect McCain once. He was the guy who had been tortured and sttod against torture, the guy who said he would as soon drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as he would in the Everglades or the Grand Canyon. What's happened to him?
10 years 4 months ago
Regarding the Republicans: Fool me once, shame on you (2000), fool me twice shame on me (2004). If you fool me again, I must be totally oblivious (2008).
10 years 4 months ago
I am against anyone in an election who cannot be honest. The comments so far are excellent! My sentiments are with Mr. Obama because I believe him. But his position on life issues is a big problem for me and a great inconsistency for the otherwise helping and caring part of him. He has been specific in "how" he will attempt to accomplish what he beleives, whereas Mr. McCain has not. Because of party pressures he has been forced to change from who he was eight years ago. So please spare me the platitudes, John.I don't believe that his position on life issues is cogent. My dilema is to find a compelling and grave reason why I should vote for Obaba, who favorably sanctions abortion, as opposed to McCain whose war policies will create pointless deaths in an Islamic land that our country does not understand at all, and social poverty here in America. Where is life suffering the most? Well, I am still looking at the helpless unborn, and it seems to be them. Thanks for ALL of your comments in the article and comments; they are helping me to form my conscience.


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