Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Compare and Contrast



My God! John McCain might have given one of the WORST political speeches of all time last night. First, whoever is running his campaign is an idiot. They started it just in time to be preempted by every news outlet to announce Obama was the Democratic nominee. The hall he was in contained maybe a few hundred people who were, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. And, the dude can't even deliver a canned line well, nor can he read off the tele-prompter without straining. It is painful to watch, brutal, really. If he wasn't such a jackass, I'd feel sorry for him flailing around up there like that. It is embarrassing.

And what is up with him when he goes like this:

Or, when he poorly delivers a stock line that is supposed to be witty by turning an Obama catch-phrase on its head and then stops, gives that one-sided maniacal grin and laughs, "he-he-he." It's freaky. And maybe just a little too Cheney-esque. Seriously. WTF?!??

Here is what some others had to say about McCain's speech:

• Rolling Stone Magazine:
Worst. Speech. Ever. Good God, John McCain gives bad podium.

• A shocked Jeffrey Toobin on MSNBC right after McCain's speech:
"That was awful. That was pathetic. That was one of the worst speeches I've ever seen him give."

Talking Points Memo blog called it a "legendarily awful prebuttal."

• Atrios wrote: "It'll make you look like the cottage cheese in a lime jello salad. Always a good look for an older gentlemen... The aesthetics of McCain's speech, just mercifully completed before a slightly energized crowd of literally dozens, was awesome in how dreadful it was."

• Josh Marshall, over at TPM, noted: "Here's how bad it is. All the Fox commentators are giving competing explanation for why McCain's speech sucked."

• Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic:
"Put McCain's speech against Obama's - and this was a wipe-out. Not a victory. A wipe-out. Rhetorically, they are simply not in the same league. And if the contrast tonight between McCain and Obama holds for the rest of the campaign, McCain is facing a defeat of historic proportions...

From the re-branded green background to the silly attempt to capitalize on Democratic divisions to the Clintonian cooptation of an Obama meme - "a leader we can believe in" - McCain's opening gambit in the general election was, in my judgment, underwhelming.

One more thing: with McCain's and Clinton's speeches, you could not forget the politics of it. With Obama, you forgot about that at times. You actually lifted your eyes a little and believed a little and hoped a little.

Yes, he can. And anyone who under-estimates that will regret it."

• Summing up GOP sentiment was prominent Republican media consultant, Alex Castellanos, speaking on CNN: "Last I checked this was not a speech-making contest, thank God."
• Conservative Fox News pundit Mort Kondracke:
"Well, John McCain had better start working on his speechmaking and learn how to use a teleprompter. I mean, the gap, the rhetorical gap between this speech and...Oratorical gap between this speech and John McCain’s was vast. John McCain sounded old. This sounded fresh and new and exciting and visionary. And he was enlisting the country to join him in a great cause. This is our moment, all of that."

• Here's Mark Levin over at National Review's The Corner:
"Not to offend those who might be offended, but this speech is a mash and tough to digest. You have to get through the self-congratulatory praise of independence and commander-in-chief pose from the Senate, then you have to try to follow the inconsistency of some of his big-government ideas vs. his anti-big-government rhetoric, and his inconsistency even on his supposed strength -- the surge in Iraq vs. closing GITMO and conferring additional rights on the detainees."

• Amy Holmes of the conservative National Review:
"McCain's speech was creaky, ungracious, and unnecessary. I never understand why politicians don't take the opportunity, when so easily presented, to simply be gracious and hold their fire. Watching McCain, I couldn't help but think of the astonishing contrast Barack's triumphant speech to a massive and adoring crowd will be. It was not a comparison McCain should have invited."

• Marc Ambinder:
"What a different emotional register from John McCain's; Obama seems on the verge of tears; the enormous crowd in the Xcel center seems ready to lift Obama on its shoulders; the much smaller audience for McCain's speech interrupted his remarks with stilted cheers.

McCain appealed to Clinton supporters based on their resentments, pointing out that the pundits and party elders seemingly anointed Clinton; Obama appeals to them based on their hopes, promising that Clinton would play a major role in securing universal health care...

... the green background is very weird and very jarring. On this stage, theatrics matter...

Obama thanked his grandmother above all else; without her, he said, none of this would have been possible. She is white, of course. The explicit message is obvious. The implicit message: this thing, this event, is much more than just a step for racial equality."

• Matt Yglesias: "'s interesting that he's shifted his aesthetic from his old black and white 'fascist' aesthetic to a new green and white Islamofascist aesthetic."

National Post:
"... some advice for McCain. Find a new image consultant. The Arizona senator kicked off the general election campaign standing alone in front of a green backdrop, barely drawing applause from a crowd that one can only presume was very small and half asleep."

The Spectator UK:
"If John McCain or his supporters had any doubts about the challenges ahead, they should have been removed last night. Obama once more demonstrated that he can hit the rhetorical heights at will, turn out a crowd whenever he needs and pose as a unifying figure, hovering above normal politics even while taking partisan jabs at his opponent. By contrast, McCain’s speech appeared defensive and uninspiring."

As for Hillary's strange non-concession speech, I pretty much agree with this analysis from Slate:
Just finished watching Hillary Clinton’s unconcession speech. I guess we should give her credit for the fact that her supporters now look sufficiently angry to set small brushfires.

It would have been hard enough to choke down all the quasi-messianic imagery. (Each vote for her was “like a prayer;” supporters hand her rosaries AND bring her back from the dead.) But the real rhetorical gem tonight was the whole new “invisibility” trope: “None of you is invisible to me!” she vowed. So (subtext): “If I concede, America, you’d go right back to being invisible!” You’d be Tinkerbell!

Clinton did answer one burning question: “What does she want?” She just wants to win the war, turn the economy around, and fix health care. Since we all of us want those things, too, her real desire is actually to be the person who does it. Why doesn’t she just say that?

Nor have I any idea what to make of the call to her supporters to weigh in on her Web site with our own votes for whether she indeed goes on to the next round of Dancing With the Stars . . .
Unfortunately, I kept thinking of that Gilligan’s Island episode in which Ginger acts out an excruciatingly long and melodramatic death scene. You keep thinking her every last gasp is really it. But then she keeps rolling around and twitching because she’s been peeking through her fingers all along and knows you’re still watching.

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