Steven Waldman

I may be the only person in the country who thought John McCain’s speech was much better than Sarah Palin’s or any other speeches this week.
He explained plausibly how his POW experiences led him to be an independent spirit. He seemed sincere when he said, “I was blessed by my misfortunes.” When he said, “I hate war,” I believed it, and forgot about his 100-years-in-Iraq line. He spoke about Republican culpability in Washington as well as Democrats, giving me hope that he really would taken on special interests. I even liked the lack of faith-talk. He doesn’t like to talk about his personal faith, so he didn’t. I sat there really believing that the old John McCain who loved bipartisan problem solving had merely been sleeping inside his partisan shell, awaiting a moment to re-emerge.
The problem is that his attacks on “partisan rancor” came after several days of the most rancor-ish partisanship in memory. Speaker after speaker mocked Obama, the Democrats, “the liberals,” community organizers, and the media elite for wanting American to fail. They pretty much called Obama a traitor: “What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?: Sarah Palin asked. “To reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.” Lindsey Graham put it even more baldly: “Barack Obama’s campaign is built around us losing in Iraq,” said Lindsey Graham.
On a more substantive level, I had the sense that McCain would fight the special interests except in one case – health care. His standard Republican spin on this issue ignored that health care reform is the greatest example of the perils of special interest dominance.
At the Democratic convention, John Kerry talked about the difference between Senator John McCain and Candidate John McCain. We also saw the contrast between Wednesday John McCain and Thursday John McCain. If for the next two months we mostly see Thursday McCain, he’ll probably win.
(The end-of-evening confetti had little circular pictures of McCain and Palin in it)

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