2008 - %3, September

McCain's Big Speech: More Prison Cell Than Policy

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 10:19 PM PDT

Number of sentences in John McCain's acceptance speech about his experience as a POW in Vietnam: 43.

Number of sentences about his 25 years in the House and Senate: 8.

The convention ended as it began: a commemoration of McCain's hellish years in a Hanoi prison cell four decades ago. The political equation was a simple one: POW equals patriotic hero equals a fighting president. Before McCain walked down the long runway at St. Paul's Xcel Center, a baritone voice declared over the P.A., "When you've lived in a box....you put your people first." Case closed.

But there was a speech to get through. And before McCain arrived at the climactic I-was-a-POW finale, he delivered, in wooden style, a no-better-than-par speech that was mostly a series of traditional GOP buzz phrases: lower taxes, cut spending, open markets. He noted, "We believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who dispense justice impartially and don't legislate from the bench. We believe in the values of families, neighborhoods and communities." (Just not community organizers.) Was the speechwriter who penned Sarah Palin's acceptance speech too busy to work on McCain's?

Unlike most speakers at the convention, McCain acknowledged that some Americans are facing tough times. "I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market," he said. "Bill got a temporary job after he was out of work for seven months. Sue works three jobs to help pay the bills." And he said he would fight for Jake and Toni Wimmer of Franklin County, Pennsylvania. "Jake," he explained, "works on a loading dock; coaches Little League, and raises money for the mentally and physically disabled. Toni is a schoolteacher, working toward her Master's Degree. They have two sons, the youngest, Luke, has been diagnosed with autism." But how would McCain help these folks? Moments later, he offered a dumbed-down version of his economic plan: " I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. I will open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them. I will cut government spending. He will increase it." (By the way, many analysts and journalists have repeatedly noted that Obama's economic plan would cut income taxes far more than McCain for Americans below the top 1 percent.)

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Wage Insurance

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 9:56 PM PDT

WAGE INSURANCE....Here's an interesting passage from John McCain's speech tonight:

Government assistance for the unemployed workers was designed for the economy of the 1950s. That's going to change on my watch....For workers in industries that have been hard-hit, we'll help make up part of the difference in wages between their old job and a temporary, lower paid one, while they receive re-training that will help them find secure new employment at a decent wage.

McCain is talking here about "wage insurance," a proposal that's been bubbling around in neoliberal circles for over a decade and has considerable (though not unanimous) support among Democrats. McCain, I think, has mentioned wage insurance in passing a few times before, but as far as I know he's never really committed himself to it. And unless it's buried somewhere that I missed, it's not part of the economic plan on his website.

But tonight, in a speech with very few specific policy details, he committed himself firmly to supporting a wage insurance plan if he becomes president. Why? Was it just because he didn't really have much else in the way of economic proposals that he thought might appeal to ordinary families? Was it a throwaway line? Or is he serious about it?

McCain's Speech

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 9:11 PM PDT

McCAIN'S SPEECH....Like Hillary Clinton, John McCain isn't a naturally great speaker, and that showed tonight. Overall, his acceptance speech struck me as flat and pedestrian, full of boilerplate and talking points.

But that's not to say it wasn't effective. It might well have been. For one thing, McCain successfully dialed down the red meat, something he desperately needed to do after last night's culture war fest. He addressed substantive issues more than previous speakers. He was good on the bipartisan roots of corruption in Washington — which didn't go over so well on the convention floor but probably did at home. And he was very good, I thought, when he was talking about war and national security. He sounded like the farthest thing imaginable from a hawkish neocon, and his line about working to build good relations with Russia while not overlooking aggression was just what the doctor ordered. Nobody watching this speech would guess that this was a man who never met a war he didn't like.

And the peroration at the end? It seemed to me like he was trying to match Barack Obama's brand of soaring rhetoric, but it didn't work. It's just not something McCain can pull off, and it clearly didn't raise the house the way Obama's final few minutes at Invesco Field did.

Still: it was workmanlike and competent and he hit most of his marks — though some of those marks (e.g., his support for a culture of life) didn't get hit with much passion. But the base didn't need any more pumping up after yesterday, so that's probably not a problem. Bottom line: I have my doubts that this speech is going to sway a lot of votes, but it was OK.

On a slightly different note, though, are the convention planners idiots? Did they really have him standing in front of a green screen for minutes on end during the middle part of his speech? It looked terrible.

And I guess they decided that Heart's "Barraucda" would be Sarah Palin's theme song after all. They didn't play that last night, did they?

Quote of the Day

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 7:50 PM PDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From George Bush, explaining why he settled on a surge strength of five brigades:

"Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."

There's more interesting stuff at the link. I'll have more to say about it after the Republican convention is (blessedly, finally) over.

Best Throw Away Line of the Day

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 7:26 PM PDT

Last line of Patrick Healy's NYT piece:

The Democrats also had a band that played a variety of pop anthems, whereas the Republican hall has been filled with a mix of country music and mellower harmonies. Delegates in both cities have occasionally broken into dancing, and rhythm's challenge has appeared bipartisan.

Green Clubbing In The Netherlands

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 6:56 PM PDT

That's right. A club where dancers generate power to light the floor, drinks come in recyclable cups and toilets flush with rain water. The club named WATT opened in Rotterdam today, reports Reuters. Clubbers tested out WATT's main showpiece, a dance floor where the disco lights become more dynamic as more people grooved around on it. It's done with a spring-loaded platform that compresses crystals to generate current through the piezo-electric effect, the same as push-button lighters and grills. In WATT, a meter shows how much power is being generated—generating even wilder revels.

There's a Sustainable Dance Club destined for London too.

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MoJo Video: Palin Puts the Party Back in GOP

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 6:08 PM PDT

Just because you don't love Sarah Palin doesn't mean Republican National Convention-goers don't. Watch our fearless reporter Jonathan Stein's RNC video dispatch [below] as he meets the many fans of McCain and Co.

To see MoJo Video's DNC dispatches, click here and here.

What They're Saying at the RNC (And What They're Not)

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 4:53 PM PDT

Progressive Accountability has counted the number of times certain words have been used by the speakers at the Republican National Convention. A sampling of the results:

Obama: 32
Pelosi: 4
Hillary Clinton: 2
Bill Clinton: 2
President Bush: 1
War: 22
Iraq: 11
Terror: 9
The surge: 6
Osama bin Laden: 1
Pakistan: 1
Diplomacy: 1
Afghanistan: 0
Taxes: 64
Business: 46
Poverty: 4
Mortgage: 3
Middle Class: 2
Recession: 0

Things To Do With the Price of Cindy McCain's Outfit

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 3:12 PM PDT

cindy_mccain_dress.jpg Vanity Fair added up the value of all the parts of Cindy McCain's ensemble Tuesday night and came up with this:

Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100

Why is Cindy McCain's $300,000 outfit relevant? Because just one day later the GOP spent the evening slamming Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist (using, ironically, former CEOs Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Mitt Romney to make the case). For reference, here are some things you could do with the money it took to buy Cindy McCain's outfit.

- Buy the average American home, which costs $266,00.
- Fund the $5,000 tax credit John McCain proposes giving to working families to help with the annual cost of health care. You could cover 60 families.
- Buy 30,000 anti-malarial bed nets, including distribution to Africa and education on use for recipients.
- Pay the tuition of 59 Arizona State University students.
- Fly a Learjet 60XR for two and a half days at the price of $4,800 an hour (it's the only way to get around Arizona, you know).
- Provide 6,000 students with school desks taken away by a schoolteacher that Mike Huckabee knows.
- Give tire gauges to 75,949 Americans hit hard by the price of gas, so they can get better mileage in their cars. Or so you can mock Barack Obama.
- Send nine community organizers and one part-timer into the streets to work for a better America (hahahaha!).

Look, there's nothing wrong with being rich. But there is something wrong with the party that has been in bed with the super-rich and with Big Business for decades, and has consistently pushed policies that benefit those interests, claiming to know the pulse of the working man. The price of Cindy McCain's dress isn't relevant because of Cindy McCain, the woman can wear what she wants. It's relevant because of what it illustrates about the Republican Party.

Obama Fundraising Goes Bonkers After GOP's Day-Long Attack

| Thu Sep. 4, 2008 2:41 PM PDT

Proving Sean at fivethirtyeight.com correct, Barack Obama has raised around $8 million since Sarah Palin's speech last night. Better than the $7 million McCain got after the Palin pick was announced. Democrats I've spoken to since the speech have had two reactions, sometimes simultaneously: (1) anger about the fact that their guy got roughed up pretty bad, and (2) fear that the GOP has a new super-effective and super-likeable surrogate. Both emotions lead to the opening of wallets. Maybe Obama doesn't want people to calm down?

For the record, Obama has responded to the beating he took last night. It's after the jump.