I had the opportunity to make it to the floor to see the last three speeches of the day, as bloggers took turns going into the hall to make sure Bloggers Corner remained staffed. Tom Bevan, John Hinderaker, and I sat with the North Carolina delegation to see John McCain speak on behalf of President Bush, in a speech that has been highly anticipated ever since Kerry’s abortive run at McCain for running mate boosted the Arizona Senator’s credibility among both parties.
McCain did not disappoint. I supported McCain in 2000, and while he’s a bit stiff at the podium, his gentle voice played well in invoking the tragedy of 9/11 — a subject that the Democrats avoided in their convention, and one which they will protest the Republicans using in New York. However, how can they avoid it? It would be akin to a failure to mention the elephant in the living room. The terrorist attack on 9/11 was the single worst foreign-based attack in our history, and the response to this vicious act of war should be fair game for reviewing the performance of George Bush.
The Democrats want to attack Bush for taking on Iraq — and McCain had something to say about that as well — but the Democrats do not want people to understand Iraq in the context of 9/11. Iraq not only was a critical piece of the overall war on Islamofascist terror for geographical and political reasons, but also for clear military reasons. After 9/11, we cannot afford to wait for known threats to develop into imminent danger. Even the 9/11 Commission recognized this, and at one point scolded members of the current national-security team in public hearings for not invading Afghanistan in January 2001, even though the 9/11 plot had moved outside of Afghanistan long before that.
McCain focused on 9/11 during his entire speech, and thanks to John Kerry’s earlier courtship, McCain has the credibility to speak to it. In fact, he is only second in that credibility to Rudy Giuliani, who lived through it at Ground Zero, and who spoke later. McCain had a number of ovation-garnering quotes, but what struck me more was the obvious passion and commitment that he communicated to the American people about the necessity of fighting this war:
It’s a fight between a just regard for human dignity and a malevolent force that defiles an honorable religion by disputing God’s love for every soul on earth. It’s a fight between right and wrong, good and evil. …
Like all wars, this one will have its ups and downs. But we must fight. We must.
McCain tried reaching out across the aisle to Democrats in his speech, talking about the similarities in our philosophies in order to reduce the partisan rancor that threatens our war effort. He gave them the benefit of the doubt and honored their intentions and even agreed with their policy goals, to a point:
My friends in the Democratic Party — and I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends — assure us they share the conviction that winning the war against terrorism is our government’s most important obligation.
I don’t doubt their sincerity.
They emphasize that military action alone won’t protect us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions, in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy. They stress that America needs the help of her friends to combat an evil that threatens us all, that our alliances are as important to victory as are our armies.
And, as we’ve been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle. That is what the President believes.
And, thanks to his efforts we have received valuable assistance from many good friends around the globe, even if we have, at times, been disappointed with the reactions of some.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends. And they should not doubt ours.
But McCain didn’t hesistate to go on the offense with the lunatic-fringe quotient of the Democrats, the hard left that started off supporting Howard Dean. McCain specifically took on the very large target of Michael Moore in a moment that threatened to bring the house down with roars of approval from the Republican delegates. In an unscripted moment, he made an allusion to a “disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe that Saddam’s Iraq was an oasis of peace” — you won’t find that in his prepared remarks — referring to the kite-flying children’s paradise that Moore portrayed in his film, Fahrenheit 9/11. Fox News reported that Moore (a credentialed media representative here) reveled in the attention, “thrusting his arms upwards” and calling McCain “dumb” afterwards.
This … is the face of today’s Democrats.
McCain finished strongly as he built up to a crescendo at the end of his speech, exhorting the delegates and Americans across the country to keep fighting until victory is assured:
But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.
Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity. We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong.
Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight.
We’re Americans, and we’ll never surrender.
McCain delivered one of the most stirring speeches I’ve heard in this election cycle, and I’m glad he’s on our side. It’s just a shame that you missed it if you don’t get C-SPAN.