McCain needs to lose inner zombie: The Swamp
The Swamp
Posted June 6, 2008 8:47 AM
The Swamp

McCain in Kenner LA small.jpg
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

by Frank James

There's evidently a lot of angst in Republicanville about the rhetorical skills, or more precisely, the lack of them, on the part of Sen. John McCain, the all-but-official Republican nominee. There should be.

McCain is going up against a world-class speechifier in Democrat Sen. Barack Obama, a man who channels Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in not just the inspirational lift of his speeches but in the cadences and speech maker's devices he uses.

So McCain has the great misfortune of having all of his defects as a speech giver show even more since he is being measured against an opponent who is the Michael Jordan of speech making.

The concern in Republican circles is captured in a piece today by's Jonathan Martin.

NEW ORLEANS - As Democrats buzzed this week about their new de facto nominee, his historic candidacy and the unlikely political demise of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republican circles were humming with another topic.

The topic: Is there a way John McCain can win the presidency without giving another speech?

That's overstated, of course, but the concern about McCain's wooden and stumbling address before a few hundred supporters here Tuesday night - the same evening as Barack Obama's soaring acceptance address before thousands of screaming fans - has sent something of a shudder through the party and left GOP operatives shaking their heads in dismay.

Why McCain should be so bad at giving speeches is fairly mystifying since he is actually a very good conversationalist, clearly at ease with reporters and the countless voters he's appeared before at town-hall meetings.

It seems like when he has to give a speech, some switch gets thrown inside him and he goes into his speech-making mode which, for him, appears to involve deep-sixing the real McCain and becoming Zombie McCain.

Zombie McCain is a man who gives a speech like it's the first time he's read it and doesn't seem to enjoy the experience. A man who seems to do all he can to squeeze his personality from the words he's uttering. A man who smiles, repeatedly and scarily, at inappropriate moments.

McCain knows what it's like to have someone smile or laugh inappropriately. I once interviewed him in a Senate Office Building hallway after 9/11 about an idea he and others were pushing at the time for a blue-ribbon panel to study how the U.S. failed to stop the terrorist attacks, an idea that became the 9/11 Commission.

Paraphrasing McCain, he said we should have a commission like the one we had after Pearl Harbor because that's what we Americans do, a tragedy happens, we create a commission.

That struck me as kind of funny, that out of tragedies we create commissions so I laughed. McCain looked at me like I was crazy. I struck the smile.

It's the same look a lot of people cast at McCain when he smiles at all the wrong moments during his speeches. What's that about? we ask. If he wants to improve his speechifying, that's something he definitely needs to rethink.

No one expects McCain to be able to deliver a speech like his hero President Ronald Reagan. Reagan was Reagan, a strapping, trained actor turned politician who, love him or not, just had a certain command presence when he spoke.

McCain should just be McCain, the conversational politician reporters and voters have seen on the stump or on Capitol Hill, who makes his points with passion and humor.

Indeed, if he can observably improve his speech making in the next few months, that could help him counter some of the resistance he's getting because of his age. It would show that he's teachable and flexible, not stuck in his ways.

He'll still have difficulty in comparisons to Obama. But at least he'll give Republicans something to really cheer about.

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This is what I have been saying for weeks! Now, taking all of Mr. McCain's previous injuries into account, he just is not a good public speaker. What's up with that grin after each statement? And the "my friends" line - my child even laughs about it.

I simply cannot wait for the debates and town hall meetings. Saturday Night Live is going to have a field day

I was a McCain county co-chair in 2000 and what I'm seeing now is not the McCain I knew. The guy's in total disconnect. His speeches could put the whole country to sleep.

It's unfortunate, but he's become a relic of a past that doesn't exist and isn't coming back. The first time the public sees Obama and McCain side by side in a Town Hall meeting or Debate, it's going to be the starkest contrast since Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle.

While it shouldn't matter, perception means a lot. McCain's going to come over as someone's goofy old grandfather and Obama should just be respectful and let him hang himself.

It's a shame as McCain's a great American who's sacrificed a lot for his country. With great regret, I'm unable to vote for him in November

It means McCain is not comfortable pretending to be something he is not. Speeches like Obama gives are all just window dressing. If people are going to choose a president on who gives the better speech than we are really in trouble in this country. You judge people by their actions and not what they say. Also McCain does well in the debates and Obama does not. Obama is terrible when he is not speaking from a script or speech written by someone else. I never understand getting excited over just speeches. Obama supporters do know that his speeches are written by other peopel. Those are not Obamas words. Also the writer of this article is against McCain and a huge Obama supporter so take it for what it is worth.

Sure he can win without giving another speech. In 2000 when it became apparent George W. Bush could not string intelligible sentences together stating why he should be President his handlers had him stop making public statements for 2 months leading up to the election and his more eloquent staff spoke on his behalf.

Lets be honest here. Frank James is an avid Obama supporter who will always find things wrong with McCain. It is pretty sad to see that his Clintont attacks are now being turned on McCain. A journalist attaking a war hero. What a great country we live in.

"McCain is going up against a world-class speechifier in Democrat Sen. Barack Obama,"

Speechifier - that's Old Timey for Manure Spreader?

McCain will do just fine.

I saw McBushs' speech...I kept waiting for someone to yell "bingo".

Excuse me? Isn't this the same Obama who mentioned the 57 states? If a Republican had messed up like that there would have been no end to the press. Just more proof that the media runs politics in America. May God have mercy on us all.

McCain will no more be able to learn public speaking (especially to the degree he must) in a few short weeks than his predecessor did in eight years. It's a lost cause. He stumbles, looks at his shoes, mumbles--gives that twisted smile as the strangest moments (as was noted), but more than that, simply stated, he is John McCain. I laughed out loud when I learned he had 'challenged' Obama to ten debates. These will be pure spectacle, and if anyone is giving Sen. McCain guidance in these matters, they might advise him to have his voice box removed in the next couple weeks.
Ten debates? Get ready Dems, this is going to be really fun.

Thing is, McCain thinks voters are kinda dumb. Reporters, fellow-politicians -- he'll talk to them normally because he thinks they have a modicum of intelligence. Voters, though -- they need those big scary smiles.

McCain is dull,boring and lacks of any enthusiasm, If you want to see that for 4 years the rest of the world will laugh at the stupidity of the U.S . MY FRIENDS He is without a doubt a warmonger, and will create another with Iran without prior negotion

I'm not trying to compare the two side by side because of vast differences, but Hitler also was a great public speaker. Just a thought. All because someone can give a great speach doesn't mean he's going to do some good. I'm not trying to start something just an opinion. All who reads this have a good day.

Is it just me, or are other readers tired of all of the moaning about the media and it's supposed unfairness !!? The media does hatchet jobs on all candidates, especially our own, but that is its nature and the price we pay for a " free " press !! I thought the beating Senator Obama took because of a couple of sound bites, without any explanation of the role of the African-American church in the life of their community, was inexcusable !! Then to try and handcuff Senator Obama to Rezko or Reverend Pfleger was yellow journalism at its best. Look at it this way, I think we would rather have a loose cannon of a Press, than no " free " Press, at all !! Our Founders knew what they were doing alright !!!

McCain cannot lose his inner zombie because if he does there would be a brain vacuum with just hot air in - which is his typical signature.
McCain has always thought that rigid toughness, ready to kill uncooperative U.S. opponents, is the highest virtue of leadership. If Saddam Hussein, for example, was a close American ally -like, say, Pervez Musharraf, McCain would have been his best backer and supporter. And looking back on past leaders that passed McCain's test, like
Pappa Doc Duvallier, Mobutu Sese Seko, Anastasio Somoza, Rios Mont, Roberto D'abuchon, Alfredo Stroener,
Jorge Videla, Ferdinal Markos,
Alberto Fujimori, Augusto Pinochet, and Jonas Savimbi,
then one can see that McCain's political virtues
are not based on oratory or on
Plato's philosopher king principles, but on brute force.
That is why once he danced on
the stage of a political rally and sang "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran." And he feels that he has that gift of tough leadership that others don't have, and that everything else in the leadership qualifications meter is just chopped liver of lesser political aspirants.

Creating Commissions -like the 9/11- is for McCain a ploy
to show that he likes input from other sources, but his opinion is like a car's steering with a strong center feel. The only thing straight is his own view, and he may wiggle a bit if he has to, but he won't make any turn that he is dead set on -like the Iraq quagmire.

McCain will try to sell his squared toughness during the campaign with his arcane and
abstract smile as the diplomatic gloss over. And at a time when a rounded 70%
of Americans think he is a warmongering Bush clone in waiting, his squared opinion
won't fit into the rounded view
of American who have had enough of mindless killing in a war without a cause. Nikos Retsos, retired academic.

McCain??? what about Obama? The guy can't even think straight or give a coherent answer when talking on the about being dependent on a teleprompter...uh, duh, and um

As usual....Democrats only care about style, after all, they are the party that worships Hollywood...Republicans care about SUBSTANCE!!!!! Listen to what the candidates have to say..NOT how they say it!!!!! The last time the Democrats elected a man with style...he ran around the White House with his pants around his ankles looking for young interns!!!!!

"he ran around the White House with his pants around his ankles looking for young interns!!!!!"

And put policies in place that gave us the greatest period of peace and prosperity in our history - how dare he!!!!

the Democrats elected a man with style...he ran around the White House with his pants around his ankles looking for young interns!!!!!

Posted by: joe | June 6, 2008 10:56 AM

Were you one of the ones who saw Christ in the mug shot of your majority leader Delay?

"Democrats only care about style"?

Not like the Republicans, who were all about substance when they rolled up their sleeves for the post-Katrina photo op with Brownie, right joe? Or when they held a returning aircraft carrier offshore so "Commander Codpiece" could be flown in and strut around in a flight suit in front of the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner? I think Democrats are just tired of Republican style BS and incompetence.

Okay, I'll say it since no one else wants to.
* * * * *
The appropriate caption for this picture: "Brains!" (cf. Night of the Living Dead.)

Joe; We don't have to LISTEN to ANYTHING...alll we have to do is LOOK BACK at the failed current administration!!!...Katrina...WMDs...Cheney saying "SO?'...Guantanamo...vetoing anything that would benefit THE AMERICAN PEOPLE...even the fresh fruits and vegetables program for schoolchildren...but there's PLENTY OF MONEY FOR WAR!!! No, we don't need to listen to speeches to KNOW what's been going on the last 8 YEARS!!!! And NOW we're supposed to FORGET IT ALL??? YOU WISH!!!! Also, I wish Republicans would stop dragging out their TIRED so-called stance on abortion every 4 years!!! You've had 8 years to do something about it and don't tell me that a president who has the power to keep a war going can't STOP ABORTION!!!!

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