September 05, 2008

The Politics Of Conventions

I might have another post in me that's more specifically about Senator McCain's speech accepting his party's nomination for President, but what struck me most about it was tone. The Democratic Convention had some firey speeches to be sure, but the ones that come to mind the most, John Kerry and Joe Biden, got their fire from tying McCain's positions to the clearly wrong positions of the current President. Everyone admitted that John McCain was a patriot and a decent guy who was simply wrong about just about everything. It wasn't jarring then, when Barack Obama came out and hammered John McCain's positions for being wrong and gave his alternatives.

Last night was jarring. After two nights of smarmy, sarcastic speeches implying all kinds of terrible things about their opponents, John McCain comes out and waves his hands at playing nice before essentially talking about his life story for an hour. Now, out on the campaign trail it's possible to claim that you don't have control over people who aren't in your campaign. If Rudy Giuliani gave an interview where he tore apart Obama like he did two nights ago, John McCain, if he felt he needed to, could legitimately say "I don't employ Rudy, so I can't exactly make him stop, but I sure wish he would because I don't agree with him." Now, as we learned with Swift Boaters, a nominee can disapprove all he wants, but the bile gets out into the discourse anyway. Still, at least there's some separation.

What isn't credible, however, is to have these two perspectives smashed together at the same convention. If John McCain truly respects Barack Obama, what didn't he tell Rudy, or Mitt, or Sarah to tone down their speeches? Why not ask them to focus on Barack's policies that you disagree with rather than making fun of community organizers? Why not present a whole convention with the type of stuff that you yourself to say if you were speaking every night?

The answer is that the few nice things John McCain said about Barack Obama last night aren't what the Republican Party believes. They believe the stuff from the last few nights and John McCain had to have those speeches to mollify his base. And he had to say those nice things about Obama last night to try to attract independent voters. So which night of the convention show what John McCain truly feels? I'm betting whichever one is most likely to get him elected at any given moment.


Drew said...

When Obama, or anyone else at the Democratic National Convention, talked about John McCain's military service, the delegates responded with boisterous applause. When McCain made a few pro-forma positive words about Obama, the delegates sat on their hands.

It's for the press. McCain says it because he has to, because the press expects it. But the truth is that the fundamental Republican campaign strategy (and this has been true at least as far back as Reagan) is to utterly demonize your opponent in every way. It's utterly shameless.

MosBen said...

You're completely right and nothing, bar none, annoys me more about modern American politics than the fact that one party continually argues legitimate points while another argues in bad faith. I mean Jesus Christ, what the Hell kind of competition is that?!