Notes from the convention:
Drafts of John McCain's acceptance speech have been bopping around the inside of the campaign for at least a few days, and a question is whether or how much it will be changed to account for the hurricane in New Orleans and the Gulf coast. An early draft is said to have been direct to the point of rambunctious in drawing contrasts between the policies of Obama and McCain. "Lotta biography, lotta foreign policy, taking Obama straight on," said a GOP strategist Tuesday afternoon. The final draft may be different, softer.
Advice? By Thursday night rambunctious will be fine, and a relief. Great political parties must show compassion, but they don't want to wilt with the weight of it.
And: Wit, wit, wit. Humor. "A maid laughing is half taken," said a randy old Elizabethan poet. A voter laughing is half yours, and just received a line he can repeat next weekend over a beer at the barbecue or online at Starbucks. Here is a fact of American politics: If you make us laugh we spread your line for free.
I do not understand the absence of humor, that powerful weapon, that rhetorical cannon, in this year's campaign. There are a lot of things to say here but let me tell you the first I think of. America is a huge and lonely country. We are vast, stretch coast to coast, live in self-sufficient pods; modern culture tends us toward the atomic, the fractured and broken up. When two people meet, as they come to know each other as neighbors or colleagues, one of the great easers, one of the great ways of making a simple small human connection is: shared laughter. We are a political nation. We talk politics. So fill that area with humor: sly humor, teasing humor, humor that speaks a great truth or makes a sharp point.
Obama talked to the audience; he talked TO America. McCain should talk with the audience. He should keep in mind that if his audience is laughing and chanting, it will help him with his delivery. As they cheer he can smile, while checking his next line. I am told alternately that he has given up on the teleprompter and will go straight from text, and that he will use a teleprompter. I assume the latter is true. If it is it will be interesting to see if he has mastered it. That will tell us if he practiced the speech. That will tell us if he knows what this speech IS, which is one big fat brilliant opportunity. If he's reading from text, well, it is not true that this is impossible in the media age. People didn't use teleprompters until 30 years ago. But when McCain reads straight from text we tend to see a lot of the top of his head, with the soft white hair and the pink brow glistening under the lights. Which tends to accentuate his age. So how he does the speech is of more than academic interest.
Declarations - WSJ.com