It was the section in the first half that started, “I fight for Bill and Sue Nebe from Farmington Hills, Michigan, who lost their real estate investments in the bad housing market.” He went on to name other couples from other states, and of course the state delegations broke out in applause when he named their state. It seemed formulaic and tired — and I was tired, after staying up way too late the prior night writing about Palin. When I got home, I left the TV off and went to bed.
I didn’t want to sit through the entire video, so today I found the full text online and read it. I was glad to see him say ” I hate war. It is terrible beyond imagination. I’m running for President to keep the country I love safe, and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has.” The Democrats will try to pin a warmonger label on him, but among all the presidential hopefuls this year, he is uniquely qualified to hate war.
As a former speechwriter myself, I look for the craft as much as the content, and as I read along I thought it generally was a solid speech. Then I got to the section on his experience in Vietnam… and I found myself in tears, right about here:
I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.
When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn’t know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.
I found myself thinking that this may be a rare example of a speech that is more moving when you read on paper than when you hear it delivered. Then I realized I had to listen to him deliver that section. And I was blown away.
In the video on the GOP Convention site, that section starts precisely at minute 42. The speech ends at 51:30, everything after that is applause and balloons. Obama is still the better orator, but for nine-and-a-half minutes, McCain more than held his own. I loved the way he talked over the applause at the close, so the ovation lent energy to the words.
Obama supporters say that just because McCain was a POW doesn’t mean he should be President, and that’s certainly true. Keep on supporting Obama, if that’s your inclination — he’s a good man too. But if you didn’t watch the speech last night, give Mr. McCain nine-and-a-half minutes of your time. Vote against him if you will, but take the measure of the man.