Wednesday, Sep. 03, 2008

John McCain

Not the speech of a lifetime — simply fine and solid. Started slowly (impeded by a disruption by some antiwar protesters), but hit a stride before too long, and kept improving. The crowd loved him, but was a bit muted until the end — perhaps because the evening's run-up speakers were too low-energy, or perhaps because the magnetic Sarah Palin absorbed the week's allotment of excitement on Wednesday.

The Republican nominee looked spiffy and hale, and his facial expressions and body language reflected far greater comfort than he normally shows. But he didn't seem to be enjoying the act of speaking or even accepting the nomination he sought for nearly a decade.

Hit the base basics: taxes, pro-life, judges, spending, education reform, but the sections seemed cobbled together. On the economy, he tried his hardest to go into feel-your-pain, populist mode, with mixed results. Talked at time about his maverick record, but didn't hammer it or weave it thematically throughout. And he didn't distance himself much from George Bush or show his heart in some revelatory way.

He did, however, speak convincingly about his hatred of war and plan to pursue peace. Charming, matter of fact, and moving, as always, when recounting his incredible POW experience.

All in all, he came across as calm, honorable, and dedicated rather than fired up and ready to go. Some pundits will be critical, but it was John McCain being John McCain. If he wins, the country will have to like and accept him as he was — and is.

by Mark Halperin

(See photos of John McCain's Tumultuous Week here.)