Now that the Democratic nomination for President has been decided, it is up to us to define and frame John McCain in his proper context. And, by contrast, those of us who have read up on Obama's biography and are knowledgeable about the candidate himself would do well to incorporate the sizable volume of information about Barack that has been in the public domain for a good long while.
McCain presents himself as a wise, Grandfatherly type but the reality is that he comes across as dull, charmless, stilted, and heavily scripted. His temper lies barely restrained beneath the surface, showing to the world that he is a deeply angry man, proud, moody, and heavily caustic in personal dealings. Those traits are understandable considering he was physically, emotionally, and psychologically tortured for five and a half years as a prisoner of war, but I am not sure I would favor them in a President.
Now that we have five months of arms, fists, knees, and elbows in front of us until the general election, McCain seems eager to reintroduce to the American people his 2000 persona. However, he has tethered himself to George W. Bush's foreign policy, particularly in Iraq, so the rough marriage of McCain 2000 versus McCain 2008 is not a particularly deft meshing of the two. That is perhaps the Republican nominee's greatest weakness.
As was pointed out ad nauseum eight years ago, McCain's personal hero is Theodore Roosevelt, a man who himself was not the most gifted campaign speaker, but whose vigor on the stump and in his life nearly redeemed his rhetorical failings. But McCain is no TR. Roosevelt's stage presence and politics-as-theater posturing are not in evidence with McCain. TR was a showman of the Barnum and Bailey school. McCain's lacks even this quality. When he tries to seem magnanimous he comes across as smugly condescending, as was in evidence in his speech in New Orleans last night.
We often fail to see the humanity in our politicians and this election is one such occasion that we simply cannot let flash-bulbs, soaring rhetoric, and the Emperor's New Clothes get in the way of seeking the truth. Politicians often build whole personas around themselves, seeking to emulate their own personal heroes, but their skill in mimicry is not always solid or skillful. We often do not appear to want our candidates to pass as actors or actresses, feeling that movie star good looks and rock star qualities are the domain of entertainers, not our elected representatives.
Having delved as much into our candidate as I could, I am left puzzled. Obama's heroes are vast but are probably known only to the candidate himself. I get a feeling they are much more a synthesis of different figures than a purely navel-gazing perspective of the sort favored by his GOP opponent. The past versus the present is a time-honored leitmotif in this business and the upcoming election will expose that divide far more profoundly than in almost every other campaign in American politics.
When the debate comes down to new versus old, Obama certain wins on more than just style.