Friday, September 5, 2008

Mixed Reviews on McCain's Speech

Most pundits followed the expected line after John McCain's acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The ones who you would expect to like it praised the speech, and the commentators who are backing Barack Obama did't see much to get excited about it. Clearly, McCain had a tough act to follow after Sarah Palin's performance.

In my book, Chuck Todd said it best when he said that McCain was probably happy it was over with, and is eager to get to the more intimate settings of the debates.

David Gergen gives high marks on CNN:

A few thoughts as John McCain takes his bows: one cannot leave that speech without having enormous respect for him as a war hero and patriot. His retelling of his story tonight was extremely moving. I have long been a fan of John McCain the human being and I came away even more impressed tonight. It is worth remembering that a McCain has fought in every American war since 1776.

In terms of addressing America's big challenges, however, I found the speech much less compelling. It was a very general recitation of fairly standard Republican approaches (how is he really different from Bush on policy?), and it did not address many issues such as getting us out of an economic ditch, heading off the worst financial crisis since the Depression, exploding health care costs, and more. Overall, I thought that part of the speech was thin.

Kudos to McCain for leaving personal partisan rancor out of the speech. Personally, I wish that he had curbed some of that earlier in the convention.

Overall, I came away believing that the McCain-Palin ticket will be very formidable this fall. And even though the speech was long, I thought that when one judges its political impact, I would give it an A.

Peter Baker of The New York Times says McCain is not running to the center, he's running to become the opposition:

The effort to position Mr. McCain and the Republicans as the true agents of change benefited this week from his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. Known for taking on her own state party over corruption and wasteful spending, Ms. Palin projects the image of the ultimate Washington outsider, literally from more than 2,800 miles outside the Capital Beltway. And she would be the first woman to serve as vice president.

But as a matter of history, it is easier to run as the opposition party if you actually are the opposition party.

“When the president of the United States is from your own party, to present yourself as a change agent is not the easiest thing to pull off,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist. Referring to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, Mr. Trippi added, “All Obama has to do is say, ‘Bush-McCain, Bush-McCain.’ ”

Chuck Todd said McCain missed the mark. "the convention will not be remembered for this acceptance speech. It will be remembered for Sarah Palin." He also noted there was no humor in the speech and that McCain is probably relieved that it's over. He said McCain is probably looking forward to the debates, where he might fare better.

Chris Matthews said McCain was separating himself from the party and George Bush. "This crowd is applauding his divorce from this administration." He went on to say that the delegates might not like the tone of his tact, but they may see a winner here.

David Gregory said that in the course of three days that McCain gave the Republicans the picture that he is a fighter, and that he has some fight in him left.

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