After two weeks of American political conventions, I was getting a little tired of politicians “transcending” stuff. Barack Obama was transcending race and party politics. Sarah Palin was transcending gender and the notion of what constitutes political experience. Joe Biden was transcending my ability to stay awake. Frankly, by last night I was ready for something a little more traditional – in an age of transcendence, I was ready for a politician who’d be willing to settle for absorbing or even refracting at least a few things.
But no. John McCain, too, claimed to be big on the whole transcending thing. Partisanship? Transcended. Old ideas? Transcendaroonied. If there was one thing made clear last night during McCain’s acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention, it’s that John McCain is going to “shake up Wershington.” I’m not sure where that is, but look out Wershingtoners – he’s coming for you.
Entering the arena after a video whose portentous voiceover suggested he once survived a horrific explosion on an aircraft carrier because the supreme being had “more for him to do” (God cares about campaign finance reform?), McCain defined himself as an agent of change. And really, who better than a 25-year veteran of Congress who supported the current – and massively unpopular – president nine times out of every ten to usher in a big ol’ fresh breeze?
Though some commentators were coolish to the speech, it exceeded what I’d come to think McCain was capable of as an orator. For instance, I’m pretty sure no deaths can directly be attributed to the address. That’s not to say the nominee’s delivery was good – slowly reading words off a gigantic screen in front of you and punctuating every sentence with an abrupt, terrifying forced smile is not the stuff of Kennedys (although, to be fair, it is the stuff of George Kennedy). But McCain was courageous enough to attack his own party, even if I don’t exactly follow the logic of his “we broke Washington, but don’t let the Democrats have control because they might further shatter the debris of our failure” philosophy. And he managed to tell his familiar personal story – five years as a prisoner of war – in a way that was newish and relevant: defining it as the pivot point of his life, the moment he stopped being selfish and started putting country first. Also, there were, like, a million balloons. Yay, balloons!
In more important news, word has it that savvy entrepreneurs are cranking out Sarah Palin merchandise to capitalize on her sudden popularity. You can buy T-shirts, tote bags, even thongs emblazoned with the Palin name (I assume they somehow bring together in co-operation, rather than awkwardly cleave, the buttocks). Clever stuff, but from my perspective it’s also pretty frustrating. They’re raking in the cash and I’m not getting so much as a nibble on my brand new line of McCain-logoed trusses and gabardine slacks.
Two final thoughts:
- as videos go, I thought “Cindy Lou” McCain’s was by far the most striking – outlining her charity work overseas, it made Mother Teresa look like a selfish layabout. FedEx a DVD to the Pope’s beatification committee: stat!
- while watching the CNN interview of a female Alaskan delegate, who had atop her head a white construction helmet featuring the words “Drill Here, Drill Now,” I couldn’t help but wonder if, in an arena filled with excited and possible drunken Republican men, that slogan might be misinterpreted and attract a certain amount of unwanted “attention.”