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John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?

By Andrew Pollack on 11/05/2008 at 10:14 AM EST

John McCain's gracious concession speech last night -- delivered in earnest and without reservation -- was dead on the mark. For the first time in over a year, the John McCain that has been honorably serving our country and keeping his own conscience for decades reappeared on national television. It was as if an exorcism had been performed. What a shame that for all his years of service, most of the world will only know him by the show he put on in the last few months.

I said during the nomination process that of all the possible candidates, these two men would be the best choices to put forward. In past elections, I've understood the expression "hold your nose and choose least bad option." This time, we had the choice between two good men. While I firmly believe that of the two, the clear better choice to run our nation is Barak Obama, that doesn't mean I think for a minute that John McCain isn't a good man as well. What I learned during the election process though, was that he wasn't able to resist the tidal forces that pull a candidate in directions they just never wanted to go.

What does it mean when such an honorable, frank, and principled man is convinced that to keep the support of his party he must accept such behavior and put up with such actions as to be so untrue to himself and his constituency?

To my friends in the rest of the world, I'm sorry you didn't get to see more of the man that John McCain has been in the past.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Tim Tripcony on 11/05/2008 at 10:45 AM EST
If he had campaigned the way he conceded, I would have had extreme difficulty
deciding who to vote for. In defeat, he looked stronger, more confident and
more dignified than I've seen him in years.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Keith Brooks on 11/05/2008 at 03:24 PM EST
Funny, my wife and I said teh same thing after listening to him last night.
Makes you wonder just what was going on inside the RNC.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Scott Marchione on 11/05/2008 at 03:48 PM EST
I said to my wife from the onset of this election cycle, that if John McCain
runs I'd vote for him, but that was under the assumption that it would be John
McCain from 2000, who I would have loved to see as president, but instead we
got a McCain who seemed more like a radical right wing weirdo than the
thoughtful and insightful legislator that vied for the GOP nomination in 2000.
Truth be told, I don't usually go GOP, but then I liked him, but not the guy
who came forth this time.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By John Vaughan on 11/05/2008 at 04:23 PM EST
Exactly. I couldn't understand why McCain listened to them at all. The
Republicans ignored him during the primary, until he came out of nowhere and
creamed everyone. People trust him. Then he went and just let them do whatever
they wanted, and campaigned, apparently, based on what they told him the "base"
wanted to hear.

Bizarre. I think it was meant to be though. McCain turned into his own worst
enemy, and Barack's campaign was brilliant. Not flawless, but brilliant,
inspired, and has set the country on fire. I can't ever remember feeling this
excited about an election or its result.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Timothy Briley on 11/06/2008 at 10:21 AM EST
slate.com, not exactly a publication of the RNC has this article by David
Greenberg:

http://www.slate.com/id/2203960

It contains this line:

"Indeed, McCain's campaign probably wasn't even the dirtiest of 2008u2014a
prize that belongs, arguably, to Obama himself for ascribing racism to Bill and
Hillary Clinton in the days between the New Hampshire and South Carolina
primaries."

and this:

"Against these negative themes, too, must be counterbalanced McCain's admirable
stands, as when he fired staffers who stoked racism or anti-Muslim sentiments
and rebuked his own hate-spewing supporters at rallies."

But what the heck. Read the whole article. You might learn how others view
things.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Andrew Pollack on 11/06/2008 at 12:51 PM EST
This brings up some interesting ideas. Much more meat here than I saw on my
first read of it, really.

On the one hand, I don't really agree with the assertion that Obama used race
as a lever in the way suggested. If anything, I think his campaign spent as
little time focused on race as I can imagine them having done. It isn't a
topic that could be ignored completely, but I think they knew that pushing it
would win them some short term gains but ultimately would be limiting in the
same way that Clinton's play on gender ultimately was.

I don't think the McCain campaign was particularly dirty, however. In fact I'd
say it was as clean as he could probably have gotten the various hardcore
operatives to make it. It would have backfired, had they gone more negative.
I'm fairly sure they knew that. Trial balloons were certainly floated but
negative messages from the right just weren't well received. McCain himself
isn't one for mud slinging in general, and when he tried to deliver rehearsed
"gotchas" during stump speeches that was obvious. He's not good at it -- it
looked poorly faked. His handlers should have handled him less, and let the
man speak frankly. That was what Americans were looking for this time around
and it would have gone better for him.

This seasons was (shockingly) one of the cleanest I can recall. The
mudslinging - mostly at the end - was done by third parties that were mostly
kept in check until then. No doubt they'll be claiming the loss is because
they weren't given more leeway.

I've never cared for the cynical campaign management of the Clintons any more
than I've cared for that of the Bush administration. I've seen them largely as
two sides of the same coin. Particularly Hillary Clinton has always seemed
willing to flail around for the most aggressive possible stance.

In the end, I don't think there was much the McCain campaign could have done
that would have made a difference in the end. Some times events come together
and the right person comes along in such away that a result becomes almost
unstoppable. The Obama campaign has always felt that way to me.

The Republican party has been tearing itself apart for a while now, as the
truly religious members -- those who really do try to live their faith, rather
than just the politics of their faith -- have in many cases been unsettled by
what they see being done in their name. There are religious people on the left
as well, don't forget. Religion and morality drive many core beliefs that can
be identified as much with the left as the right. The fiscal conservatives
that make up one part of the party aren't happy either. They don't like what's
happened over the last few years one bit. Those who consider themselves strict
Constitutionalists, for whom the Bill of Rights should be driving decisions
have also had cause to be disheartened. In essence, the Republican party has
lost much of its cohesion and identity.

Even as the Republican party has melted down, the Democratic one seems to
finally be willing to quit squabbling over the minute differences in just how
liberal is too liberal, who is most holy on environmental issues, which
favorite cause is a must have for any candidate they support. They still came
close to failing -- their biggest enemy was also internal. Many threatened to
split the party over the primary process. I personally believe that if the
Bush administration hadn't been so extremely offensive in their mind for the
past 8 years, they'd have done just that. Only abject terror at the idea of a
continuation of that leadership kept them together.

So amidst all this infighting on both sides, you have the overwhelming majority
of American political thought -- the center -- watching with a feeling of
nauseous dread, desperate for a way out of the increasingly hostile,
increasingly futile, increasingly destructive political climate. Along comes a
man who is calm, pleasant, and nonthreatening. He speaks clearly, and what he
says is thoughtful and considered. He seems to ignore the hostility when at
all possible. When questioned about people attacking him he downplays it
instead of raising theatrical shock and anger. In short, he is comforting in
exactly the way people are looking for. His being a black man becomes less
frightening to people who otherwise might be frightened because he seems to be
in all other respects just like them. He could be their neighbor.

All in all, many things came together at the right time, and Barak Obama was
almost a perfect fit for the role he's in at this point in history. I can't
imagine anyone would want to run against that kind of tidal force.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Timothy Briley on 11/06/2008 at 01:50 PM EST
Given what you wrote in your comment:
"I don't think the McCain campaign was particularly dirty, however. In fact I'd
say it was as clean as he could probably have gotten the various hardcore
operatives to make it."

I'm left wondering what you meant by your main post:
"What I learned during the election process though, was that he wasn't able to
resist the tidal forces that pull a candidate in directions they just never
wanted to go.

What does it mean when such an honorable, frank, and principled man is
convinced that to keep the support of his party he must accept such behavior
and put up with such actions as to be so untrue to himself and his
constituency?"
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Andrew Pollack on 11/06/2008 at 03:01 PM EST
Fair question:

#1. Palin. My take on it is that once he didn't get what he wanted for a
running mate, he surrendered entirely to those in his party that pushed him to
play to the base. I don't think he made a careful decision here. I think he
accepted someone's pick in frustration. That's what it looked like to me.
Without passing judgement on Palin, she's completely different from anyone
you'd expect to see him working with usually.

#2. In all the debates, most of the speeches, many of the appearances, and
most of the interviews he was completely over scripted. He let others tell him
what to say and how to project himself. I have no doubt Obama had as much
advice, but the difference is that McCain isn't the sort of person who works
that way. He doesn't carry off scripted lines well, he fails to execute
pre-planned gotchas. He's much better off the cuff. His 'This one" gaff felt
to me like he'd half delivered part of a response that he'd rehearsed and it
just didn't come out right. There were several of those.

Overall, he seemed to spend his time being carefully managed and moved around.
Then suddenly he'd break stride and do something out of sync with the rest of
the campaign -- like admonishing people to tone it down in one town hall when
he just couldn't ignore a tone that wasn't the kind of thing he wanted to be
part of.

I spent a lot of time thinking about McCain's handlers, where with Obama there
just didn't seem to be that kind of issue.
re: John McCain -- You came back to us last night, but where have you been?By Timothy Briley on 11/06/2008 at 04:15 PM EST
"My take on it is that once he didn't get what he wanted for a running mate, he
surrendered entirely to those in his party that pushed him to play to the base."

True. He really wanted to pick Lieberman as his running mate. That would have
spelled disaster in my opinion and he was finally convinced of it. He already
had the problem of not really being considered much of a Republican (He will
never be forgiven for attempting to limit political speech with
McCain-Feingold).

While whether or not Palin was a drag on the ticket on election day is up for
debate (and is being debated in columns scattered across the internet), the
fact is that at the time, her selection was enormously popular with the base,
raising millions of much needed dollars and increasing attendance at rallies by
the thousands.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about McCain's handlers, where with Obama there
just didn't seem to be that kind of issue."

The problem for McCain was that he thought that he could win on the merits of
his platform. But few people cared about McCain's platform. In reality this was
an election about the merits of Obama.

If McCain failed to show that Obama, while obviously an intelligent man and
gifted orator, was a man of few real accomplishments that campaigned as a
centrist Democrat but whose actions in both private and political life were
those of someone on the far left, then he was done. The problem is that it took
McCain too long to figure that out.

As the campaign entered the fall with McCain trailing Obama, McCain was finally
convinced that his strategy, idealistic as it was, would fail. So McCain
started pointing out the problems with Obama. As you noted, he sucked at it.
Really, really sucked at it. So I don't blame the handlers for that. I blame
McCain.

I thought the handlers really failed with Palin. Here you had a woman who
absolutely kills at a rally, who has shown political guts by standing up to
corruption in her own party and who on the abortion issue walks the walk.

Instead of putting her on the trail for a while doing what she does best, her
handlers succumbed to pressure and put her on Jeopardy (I mean Gibson and
Couric) with only a few days notice. Given that her experience, like most
governors, was at the state level and that the media was much more inclined to
go after any mistake by her than one made by Biden, the outcome was easy to
predict.

Concerning Biden, The man is known as a walking gaffe machine and he supplied
them on a regular basis during the campaign, but I only remember one SNL sketch
on him. My personal favorite was during the debate Biden referenced going to a
restaurant to talk to regular people, when in fact the restaurant had been
closed for almost twenty years. That was mostly ignored by the press, but
imagine the reaction if Palin had done it.

Back to Palin. It was only when Palin started ignoring her handlers that she
hit her stride. She still made mistakes, mainly by overstating the case (I
hated the palling around with terrorists line), but still she did better by
ignoring them. Evidently there was no love lost between them as her handlers
are now throwing rocks at her.
Ok, so tell me....By Andrew Pollack on 11/06/2008 at 04:45 PM EST
.... From what I read from people who were not Obama supporters, the reasons
for the result come down to the American People either being fooled by a smooth
talking and highly charismatic orator, or not understanding something because
the McCain camp didn't get it out there well enough.

Isn't it just possible that they DID understand and picked the one they
wanted?

The moral rights issues -- abortion, gay marriage, slavery, and segregation
were all pretty much settled already. Some more recently than others -- but
all settled. Did you notice that none had a large impact on the current
presidential campaign? This election marks the end of the furthest right swing
of the pendulum in a very long time. It will be 20 years before the time comes
back around to put those back in danger.
re: Ok, so tell me....By Timothy Briley on 11/07/2008 at 11:28 AM EST
"From what I read from people who were not Obama supporters, the reasons for
the result come down to the American People either being fooled by a smooth
talking and highly charismatic orator, or not understanding something because
the McCain camp didn't get it out there well enough.

Isn't it just possible that they DID understand and picked the one they wanted?"

Absolutely. But not many if you look at the exit data from CNN,
http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#val=USP00p6. Only 20% of
the voters selected their candidate due to his experience, Of those that did,
only 7% voted for Obama, which comes to less than 2% of the total number of
voters. Most voters appear to have voted for Obama because they thought he
cared about people and could bring change and that mattered more to them than
experience and sharing their values.

"The moral rights issues -- abortion, gay marriage, slavery, and segregation
were all pretty much settled already. Some more recently than others -- but all
settled. Did you notice that none had a large impact on the current
presidential campaign?"

Yes I did. But it would have been surprising if either slavery and segregation
had been issues in this campaign. I strongly disagree with you that the
abortion and gay marriage issues are settled.

The prolifer's tried and failed to make abortion an issue. I'm not a prolife
guy because they almost always think that life begins and a soul is assigned at
conception. I started out as a pro-choce guy. Then as I learned more about the
stages of development in the womb, I gradually became a first trimester guy,
and then more of a first month guy, which essentially makes me against all
abortion that does not involve danger to the health of the mother or left-over
fertilized eggs from in vitro. So I guess both prolifers and prochoicers are
annoyed with me.

I've spent some time looking at Obama's announcements, transcripts, and votes
on abortion. From it I find myself agreeing with this statement in newsweek,
"...despite his rhetoric about reducing the incidence of abortion, Barack Obama
has an unalloyed record of support for abortion on demand",
http://www.newsweek.com/id/163896?tid=relatedcl. So I believe him when he told
NARAL that he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a bill that will
remove all state restrictions on abortion. In various states these restrictions
include parental consent and late-term abortions. By one estimate, Obama as
president will result in an additional 125,000 abortions a year,
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ODE0MGFkNWU4ZjZlODFiYjllODRlZmMzMzNkOTQyMTE
=. Some counter by saying that Obama's economic policies will result in fewer
abortions needed. One writer considers that delusional:
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/viewarticle.php?selectedarticle=2008.10.14_Geo
rge_Robert_Obama%27s%20Abortion%20Extremism_.xml. Time will tell who is right.

But back to your initial question, "Isn't it just possible that they DID
understand and picked the one they wanted?". Most people know what Obama has
promised, but most don't know much about what's he's done. Even liberal
commentators have voiced concern that the MSM was so in the tank for him that
they simply haven't done that much research. For example, they didn't find out
until last week that the aunt he wrote so nicely about in his book had defied a
deportation order and has been living in assisted housing in Boston for years.
Since he has a 7 figure net worth, you'd think charity begins at home. Or that
he'd help out his half brother living in poverty in Kenya. And you'd think that
would be MSM worthy news, but if you google newsweek.com for Obama
half-brother, the only mention of his half-brother is in the comments, not the
stories or columns. So I'd have to agree with the others that McCain lost
because this election was about Obama and McCain's campaign failed to early on
given Americans an accurate picture of Obama's past actions and current
positions.

I'm guessing you disagree. But I thank you for engaging in a civil conversation
about this.
I'm going to stop now...By Andrew Pollack on 11/09/2008 at 01:25 AM EST
...I'm going to stop with this thread now because I don't really find it
productive to respond to some kinds of argument -- in this case, its repeating
the most outlandish claims that other people are making as if it were talking
points that are being handed out.

I'm personally offended by the idea that someone who is pro-choice is by
definition pro-abortion and will increase abortions somehow by dint of that
position. Nobody is pro-abortion. Its a terrible thing by anyone's
definition. The idea that its used a form of callous birth control is
hyperbole and example by extreme -- its the lowest form of argument. You dig
up the most wretched extreme example and use it as a poster child for political
decision that affects the mainstream. Its no different than using the worst
mistaken missile strike with civilian casualties as the representative example
of the Iraq war. It can be done, but its wrong.

When I see it, Its time to stop because I'm no longer explorer what someone
thinks, I'm exploring what they can repeat. That doesn't interest me.
re: I'm going to stop now...By Timothy Briley on 11/10/2008 at 12:57 AM EST
If you go back to the top of this thread, it began with you wondering why
McCain ran such a dirty campaign. My opinion being different wouldn't have
carried much weight so I quoted someone from slate because I thought you might
value their opinion more. Based on your response, it worked.

But your response left me with questions about what you meant. So I asked. You
answered and asked me other questions. I answered your questions and tried to
back up my answers, both with facts, (a)why people voted as they did per CNN
data, (b)Obama's past action on abortion, (c)what he has promised to do in the
future), and opinion (what that would lead to in the future). It's true the
opinion wasn't my own, but then it's on a topic outside my area of expertise. I
linked to it because I'm pretty sure you wouldn't run across it any other way
and I thought you would find it interesting, even if you disagreed with it.

Your latest (and evidently final) response has me wondering what you are
talking about:

"The idea that its used a form of callous birth control is hyperbole and
example by extreme"
I reread the articles and couldn't find any of them referencing abortion as a
callous form of birth control, so I'm unsure where you are getting that from.

"I'm personally offended by the idea that someone who is pro-choice is by
definition pro-abortion and will increase abortions somehow by dint of that
position."
Being pro-choice alone will not increase the number of abortions, just as being
pro-life alone will not reduce the number of abortions. It's how you act on
your position that will affect it. If as a result of Obama's position on
abortion he signs a bill that removes state limitations on abortion, it's not a
stretch to think that the number of abortions will increase. Obama's other
policy changes might counter that, but time will tell and I wrote that.

"You dig up the most wretched extreme example and use it as a poster child for
political decision that affects the mainstream."
The only time I used an example was in the discussion of of topics the MSM
didn't cover. The example I referred to Obama having 2 family members living in
poverty that he hasn't helped and that the MSM has largely not written about.
Since that's not a "wretched example", what is the example you are referring to?

Over the past week, I've put hours into writing carefully thought out answers
numbering hundreds of words in response to your questions. I've even taken the
time to back up my responses with links to facts where appropriate and I've
occasionally the shared the opinion of others where I thought it might be
helpful. In response, you've slammed me (an educated guess since you didn't
actually name me) with a new post. The post implies that you want to know what
people with differing opinions think, but instead you just get talkng points
thrown back at you. Thanks pal.


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