Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Return to Kennedy, Reagan, Roosevelt and Lincoln

The McCain campaign is struggling to refine their candidate's communication skills, move him away from his standard image - sarcastic old man - while also stressing that he's a straight talking man of the people, not some performance artist. Says the New York Times:

By his own admission, Mr. McCain is not a great orator. He is ill-suited to lecterns, which often dwarf his small stature, and he tends to sound as if he is reading his lines, not speaking them. His shortcomings have been accentuated in a two-man race, particularly because the other man — Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee — can often dazzle on stage.
Apparently the core of their strategy is to make him less like Batman's nemesis, The Penguin, which everyone knows is Cheney's gig!

Mr. McCain is working closely with aides like Brett O’Donnell, a former debate consultant for Mr. Bush, to improve his speech and performance. He is working to limit his verbal tangents and nonverbal tics. He is speaking less out of the sides of his mouth, which can produce a wiseguy twang reminiscent of the Penguin from the Batman stories, and he is relying less on his favorite semantic crutch — the phrase “my friends” — which he used repeatedly in his campaign appearances. He also appears to be trying to exercise restraint, advisers and campaign observers say, when speaking off the cuff, wisecracking in town meetings and criticizing his opponent. In recent weeks, for example, Mr. McCain seems to have reined in the sarcasm he has directed at Mr. Obama.

I can't help but imagine McCain deep in some concrete bunker getting training in how to appear more likable, something along the lines of this famous scene:

Ignoring his privileged upbringing and marriage into the highest circles of wealth, McCain's complete lack of polish is being explained away as a pure proof that he is a regular Joe that understands the needs of the people. How bad is it?

The more careful McCain, said by some to be overly scripted, has received some withering critiques. “His rhetorical style can best be described as ‘tired mayonnaise,’ ” the comedian Stephen Colbert declared on “The Colbert Report” before inviting viewers to enter the “Make McCain Exciting Challenge.”

Peter Spaulding, the chairman of Mr. McCain’s campaign in New Hampshire, said he recently saw a McCain speech on television that was “just atrocious.”

Mr. McCain’s advisers, who bristle at the idea that they are trying to transform the candidate, say that his lack of smoothness merely reinforces his reputation for authenticity.

“Voters are looking for credibility and are wary of polish,” said Mark McKinnon, a former consultant to Mr. McCain’s campaign. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which candidate can more deftly read a teleprompter.”

I think at this point America has had quite enough of the folksy, unpolished, embarrassing-us-all- over-the-world style of Presidential leadership to last for quite some time. When you throw in the Penguin angle you realize that John McCain actually has all of the core attributes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wrapped up in one leathery skin!

So is that really what America needs right now? Through our toughest times we have been led by men whose great voices offered strength and solace and a promise that the nation would be healed, men like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Let us be led now by a man who speaks so beautifully that his words of unity are set to music.

It is Barack Obama who drives us to once again set aside the differences that distinguish us in favor of the commonalities that bind us. With him we will rise as one nation, indivisible, to meet the challenges that face us all.

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