Revisiting McCain’s Speech

Sometimes in politics you get these scenarios where left and right seem to be living in different worlds. I worried that my sense that McCain’s speech from last night was a fiasco was something like that — groupthink driven by watching it in a room full of liberals. It’s clear, however, from The Corner that the right feels the same way. Yuval Levin, who even recommended the themes that McCain used, is especially good on the problems with the address.

On one level, this is just aesthetics, just the question of the delivery of the speech. But it does seem to me that McCain had trouble with the text largely because important swathes of it just aren’t about stuff he cares about. He likes to talk about war, and steely resolve to continue prosecuting wars, but he’s not into getting into the weeds of this person’s tax policy versus that person’s tax policy. Not that he can’t talk domestic issues, but he likes to frame them as battles between the white hats of the public interest and the black hats of corruption. That’s a limited frame for anyone to use, but it’s an especially odd one for a conservative, which is presumably why all of McCain’s memorable domestic crusades have involved him attacking Republicans rather than Democrats.