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McCain's Eulogy for McCain

"You all know, I've been called a maverick," John McCain declared Thursday night as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination.

Indeed he had. Over and over again through the evening's program. "Some people call him a maverick," said former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, one of McCain's warm-up acts. "May we summon ourselves to our best efforts and call this maverick forward."

"The original maverick," said another speaker, David Cappiello.

Convention organizers distributed hand-painted signs announcing "Maverick." Biographical videos proclaimed the "maverick" status of McCain and his vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

But the most striking thing about the message of the maverick Thursday night was how conventional it was. There were the requisite references to Sept. 11, including a video showing, to an ominous bass, the planes hitting the towers and the towers collapsing. "We remember buildings burning, bodies falling," the narrator said. There were the mandatory multiple warnings about "a dangerous world," leading to McCain's assurance that "we face many threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them; I'm prepared for them."

And McCain read the usual Republican boilerplate.

Read the whole Sketch

-- Dana Milbank

By Dana Milbank  | September 5, 2008; 12:00 AM ET
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A view from Canada Toronto Star

McCain's suspect winds of change
John McCain is scrambling to steal a march on Barack Obama by rebranding himself as an agent of change in a season when most Americans urgently want a new direction. "The old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second, Washington crowd" should know that "change is coming," he vowed in St. Paul on Thursday night, as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination.

But if Washington is such a cesspool of corruption and waste, why hand the White House to a man who has been in Congress for 26 years and who believes U.S. President George Bush is right most of the time? Aren't Obama and his Democrats the likelier agents of change?

That is a question Americans must ask themselves between now and Nov. 4, and the Republican convention did little to answer it.

After a kickoff dampened by Hurricane Gustav and telling no-shows by Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, the Republican gala caught fire briefly on Wednesday night when vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee delivered a series of red-meat, jingoistic, media-bashing speeches. But it slipped back into snooze mode the next day, with McCain peddling empty slogans in a meandering, contradictory, policy-lite address.

McCain's low-key pitch was, essentially: I'm a hero, vote for me.

The self-styled "maverick" offered no credible prescription for cutting 6 per cent unemployment, easing the mortgage crisis or making health care and post-secondary education affordable. He plans to extend Bush's ruinously expensive tax cuts for the rich, and he will tackle a $500 billion deficit by vetoing $18 billion in waste. It's nonsense. And it contrasts unfavourably with Obama's fiscally more credible program to roll back tax breaks for the richest, give most working families a break, curb dependency on Mideast oil, and provide health coverage for all.

McCain's task in St. Paul was to make his slogan, "Change you can trust," as believable as Obama's "Change you can believe in." He failed.

So it was up to Palin and the wrecking crew to tackle the true business of the Republican campaign. As McCain vowed to reach across the "constant partisan rancour" of Washington, the others cheerfully fanned America's culture wars by tarring Obama as an elitist underachiever who is out of touch with heartland values and by cynically distorting his message. Obama will "reduce the strength of America," read "Islamic terrorists" their rights, and forfeit "victory" in Iraq, they warned. He'd cower before "evil extremism" and even give "madmen the benefit of the doubt." So much for bridging the great divide.

In one especially oddball aside, Huckabee accused Obama of wanting to import "lots of ideas from Europe" about cradle-to-grave social services. Was that meant to terrify the millions of Americans who have no health insurance?

The Republican message was, at root, incoherent and unpersuasive. At one point McCain drew deserved applause for urging Americans to better the country by becoming teachers, joining the military, running for public office, comforting the afflicted, or defending the rights of the oppressed. Yet not 24 hours earlier, Palin had sneered at Obama for being a "community organizer." Like much of the Republican message in St. Paul, it didn't quite add up.

Posted by: Ager50 | September 6, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

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