by Frank James
Sen. John McCain got some more practice today dealing with antiwar hecklers during his set-piece Denver speech on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. (Colorado, of course, is in play and Denver is the site of the Democratic National Convention, so McCain was clearly taking it to the Democrats in more ways than one.)
Anyway, he's been occasionally heckled on the campaign trail I'm told by a colleague who's covered his campaign a lot.
But as the same colleague also notes, McCain has had so many town meetings, it's not like voters haven't had plenty of opportunities to engage him on Iraq and other issues. So the heckling is really more about political theater and getting the media's attention since McCain has, at town halls, heard from plenty of voters who don't like his Iraq stance.
Anyway, he was repeatedly heckled today. It started when he was saying some nice words about his former Senate colleague, Hank Brown who once represented Colorado.
MCCAIN: ...Hank is a man of many dimensions and a person who I admire. And I know the people of Colorado share my view.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mike) -- war. Support the troops! (Off mike.) Stop the war!
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Hank. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
A few minutes later came this:
MCCAIN: ...Today we also need to apply our spirit of optimism, energy, and innovation to a crisis that's been building for decades but is now coming to a head: the global spread of nuclear weapons. Forty-five years ago, President John Kennedy asked the American people to imagine what the world would look like if nuclear weapons spread beyond the few powers that then held them to the many other nations that sought them. "Stop and think for a moment," he said, "what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Endless war! Endless war! Endless war!
SEN. MCCAIN: You know --
McCain was allowed to go on for a fer more lines before he was interrupted again. The Republicans in the audience tried a little counter chanting to help out the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee.
AUDIENCE: John McCain! John McCain! John McCain! John McCain!
SEN. MCCAIN: You know, it's not too important, but I have town hall meetings all the time -- I'll be having one tomorrow -- where people are allowed to come and state their views and we exchange them. And the one thing we don't do is interfere with other people's right to free speech. (Applause.) But that doesn't seem to be the case
with these -- with these people.
But anyway, if I could get back to Jack Kennedy, a second.
The hecklers, who were young in contrast to many in the audience, let McCain get on with his speech for a few more lines, then ambushed him once again:
MCCAIN: Likewise, we have seen Iran marching, marching with single-minded
determination toward the same goal, authenticated again today by the IAEA. President Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and represents a threat to every country in the region -- one we cannot ignore or minimize. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The U.S. is -- (inaudible). (Booing.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Inaudible.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) John McCain! John McCain! John
SEN. MCCAIN: You know -- thanks, my friend. Thanks. Thanks.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Sit down! (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
SEN. MCCAIN: This is -- this may turn into a longer speech than you had anticipated. (Laughter, applause.) And by the way, I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends. I will never surrender in Iraq. (Cheers, applause.)
Thus, the hecklers were the perfect foil to allow McCain to use a line he's resolutely delivered a lot already and will most assuredly continue resolutely delivering all the way to November.
Sometimes heckling does more for the heckled than the hecklers. This appeared to be one of those cases.