Photo © M Styborski, All Rights Reserved.
Senator John McCain kicked off Phase II of his presidential candidacy here in beautiful Kenner, LA last night. It was a depressingly small rally for such a major step, but I believe this is due to the complete apathy of Americans today regarding politics. What kind of mindless drone passes up a chance to see a presidential candidate speak? Or are you all simply comfortable hearing the two daily sound bites the media give you? It's your country's future bubba! Stop sitting on your ass!
That being said, the rally was delayed slightly as traffic was heavy coming from McCain's fifty grand per plate dinner which featured a host of New Orleans' movers and shakers: Torres, Bollinger, Taylor, Jindal, you get the idea. That's a lot of money for a bowl of red beans. Hell, I got to speak to him for free.
The rally kicked off with Kenner Mayor Ed Muniz saying a few words and introducing the Tim Laughlin Brass Band which marched in to the tune of Second Line, Part II, followed by the Bonnabel Bruin Cheerleaders. Hey! I went there! But I don't remember the cheerleaders in my day being so short. Must be something in the water around here these days.
The Bruin Cheerleaders worked the crowd up into an almost perceptible state of interest with a few catchy numbers like, "Go McCain, Go!" before yeilding the stage to former Governor Buddy Roemer. Roemer came out with energy and spoke almost as if he were running for office. Perhaps he's targeting the Veep seat?
Then it was Governor Bobby Jindal's turn at the mic. He kept his speech short and to the point, explaining that after spending a weekend at McCain's home in Arizona, he invited the Republican nominee here to Kenner to kick off the next phase of his candidacy. He touted the Arizona senator as a hero, the son and grandson of heroes, and as the only clear choice for president, based on his distinguished record of public service.
After the appetizers were done, the main course took the stage and immediately thanked the people of New Orleans. Oops. It was the first of three McCain fauxs pas regarding his surroundings. Other than that, things went pretty much as expected.
(OK, a small rant here: When the fuck did Kenner become a suburb of New Orleans? Almost every major news outlet continues to refer to "John McCain's speech in a suburb of New Orleans." Look at a map for Christ's sake! Kenner is a city! Chateau Estates is a suburb. Lakeview is a suburb. We have a city seal. Do you know what's written on it? City of Kenner! And these are the morons you trust to report current events? Sorry. We continue with our blog with no further interruptions.)
McCain's speech, intended to upstage and overshadow Obama's declaration of victory in the Democratic race given at the same time, was not at all what I expected. It was predictable, mostly dry and aimed primarily at those who are already on the McTrain. He began by sincerely recognizing the efforts of Hillary Clinton but then quickly aimed his comments toward Barack Obama, specifically targeting his lack of experience and his dependence on a plan for an America that has not existed for over fifty years.
"...many of these policies were designed for the problems and opportunities of the mid to late 20th Century, before the end of the Cold War; before the revolution in information technology and rise of the global economy."
You can't argue with that.
McCain went on to answer accusations from the Democrats that he is running for Bush's third term, explaining his differing positions on the war in Iraq, and his policies on climate change and energy. I have to disagree with the Democrats that McCain represents four more years of George Bush. While it's true that he has supported Bush on certain agendas, that's the price he pays to become the Republican Golden Boy. It's the old "You Scratch My Back..." game.
McCain also took the Bush Administration to task for it's colossal failure during Hurricane Katrina and promised that under his watch nothing like that would ever happen again. He didn't elaborate, but I certainly hope that this means restoring FEMA to a full cabinet position, increasing their funding and not using the agency as a parking lot for big money contributors and golf buddies.
McCain continued to note aspects of Obama's platform and give reasons why they were flawed, always ending with, "That's not change we can believe in," or similar words. It was a classic example of repeatedly driving home a point. It was also about as exciting as a lecture on the migratory patterns of head lice, and for this the blame falls on both McCain and speech writer Mark Salter.
While Salter writes safe, effective republican prose, (and the speech does have it's moments,) McCain is simply not the type of speaker who can handle it. In all honesty, this speech sounded a lot like Kathleen Blanco gave it. Soft speaking, even tempo, slow pace, interminable pauses, and a chore to listen to. Like a teacher explaining lunchroom behavior to the Special Ed class. After preaching to the converted, McCain returned to speak to the overflow crowd who were unable to see the speech itself. He was more informal, more engaging and mercifully, more brief.
Unless McCain can start making some sparks, he's going to fall farther behind Obama in the excitement category. Obama already leads the categories of campaign funds, popularity, and not being a republican. The only category Obama falls short on is experience, but then, who cares about that in a Presidential Election?
For you lazy dinks out there who couldn't make it, here is most the speech, before CNN switched over to cover BO: