For a man not known for giving a great speech, he sure did turn the tables tonight. John McCain is never going to match Barack Obama’s oratory skills but Thursday night at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, John McCain did not speak as a Republican. Instead, he spoke as an honorable American.
What was striking to me about this speech is that he took the high road. He did not level harsh attacks against Barack Obama. Rather his speech was about imploring Americans to serve a cause greater than their own. John McCain wants to win the presidency but tonight he took this unique opportunity to reach higher than a partisan goal and used his personal touching story as an example of how you can turn selfishness into selflessness.
If you can just check your partisanship at the door, the speech was really a thing of beauty.
McCain was able to tell his war story in a way that didn’t feel self serving at all. It really hammered home the point of just how much he loves this country and how Americans can love and serve their country as well.
Normally McCain looks a little rigid or pre-occupied when delivering a speech. But tonight he looked very relaxed. He had some of that feistiness but his smile and ease was more on display tonight. He didn’t look angry or stern. He came across as passionate and caring. Those are important attributes.
The speech dealt first with the economy and that was critical. He concentrated far more on economic related issues during his remarks than foreign policy. That was smart and he was able to play the empathy card to a degree by adding in some personal stories of struggling families across the country.
One of the more compelling moments of the speech was when he said, “I hate war” and he welled up a little bit in his eyes. Maybe people who hardly pay attention to politics think McCain may like war but that line and the emotion attached to it was an attention grabber.
I thought he also laid out the contrast (at least in his view) between himself and Barack Obama. It wasn’t heavy on specifics but it really didn’t need to be. A speech that gets bogged down in specifics gets boring and you lose people. Instead, he kept it simple which worked.
Finally, he rolled in the whole maverick, change mantra and brought Sarah Palin’s story in with it. He mentioned the word, “we” so many times tonight when talking about the change that McCain/Palin will bring to Washington.
Bottom lime: John McCain didn’t go for the raucous partisan speech. Instead, he took the high road by laying off Obama and praising the country that put him on that stage tonight. Sometimes the moment calls for that. John McCain realized the moment and delivered a speech full of love for America, the country he loves.