Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain's Speech Not Greek Oratory, But We're Not Greeks

If, this morning, we pay attention to much of the mainstream media, McCain's speech was a bust.

  • Roland Martin, CNN analyst, said last night that the speech was not constructed well in comparison to Governor Sarah Palin's three-act masterpiece and Senator Obama's acceptance speech.
  • Andrea Martin, speaking on MSNBC this morning, said, "They got through it."
  •'s Mickey Kaus (who actually gave a poor rating to Senator Obama's acceptance speech a week earlier) wrote a mile-long technical and style critique of McCain's address.

But I think TVWeek--publishing overnight ratings comparing Senator McCain's speech to Senator Obama's--may be far more telling in terms of gauging momentum and interest among the electorate.

Obama's speech grabbed a 4.3 rating/7 share, while McCain gathered together a 4.8 rating/7 share. For those who aren't media savvy, that means that of all television households in the nation, 4.3% were tuned in to Obama's speech and 4.8% were tuned in to listen to McCain's.

Additionally, TVWeek reports that Nielsen overnight ratings showed that once the network shifted to the speech after the conclusion of the Redskins-Giants game, the speech earned a 6.3 rating/10 share.

The 2% difference between Obama's 4.3% and the 6.3% through NBC translates to more than 2,000,000 viewing households. No wonder the attacks and rhetoric are being ratcheted up by the Obama camp and the Dem gang behind them.

This for a speech that the pundits are telling us was boring and lacked substance.

Maybe, just maybe, Americans tend to value character above grand oratory. After all, don't most of us instinctively equate a well-spoken politician with someone who is a skilled manipulator? Perhaps the American people have enough common sense to listen instead of watch. George Washington was barely audible when speaking to even a small group. Harry Truman was regarded as a terrible public speaker, by even those who regard him as one of our great presidents. Even John Kennedy, who we now listen to and marvel at his skill in reading a speech, was tethered to a thick, New England accent that much of he country was predisposed to dislike.

Americans are smarter than the media give them credit for, and they don't always care about the same things that the media thinks they should care about.

When McCain describes how his worldview was transformed during his capture, Americans are able to interpret that he is telling us exactly how he views the president's duty as being greater than one person's individual agenda.

When McCain explains that he "hates war", Americans are capable of realizing that he is telling us exactly how he will make decisions about the use of force in resolving foreign policy objectives.

When McCain tells us that he sees himself as a servant of the people, Americans instinctively understand that he means that he wants to lead the whole country, not just those who follow him.

When McCain says that he wants to overhaul the nation's unemployment system because it is outmoded and incapable of dealing with the challenges of a global economy, Americans do not sit and ponder what that means for them. When he expands on that proposal, stating that he wishes to use the community college system for retraining, and provide income gap coverage so that those in training can still work part-time to support their families, even the average American knows that McCain has his finger on the pulse of a dilemma that people face when hit by having their old-economy jobs eliminated.

Before I sat down to watch the speech last night, I felt that what McCain said was far more important than how he said it. What he said to me (and undecided voters will continue to process his speech over the following days and weeks) is that he knows where change need to occur and what steps he wants to take to affect real change. He informed us of his character and resolve as a way of assuring us that he will not waver from his pursuit of the country's best interest.

No, the speech would not grade well against Obama's if they were standing in a Public Speaking 101 classroom. It was heavy on pathos and ethos, light on logos, and at times clumsy in its delivery. But it was completely devoid of stagecraft, pretense, or disingenuousness. In the final analysis, I think that kind of straight talk--as opposed to smooth talk--is what America both wants and needs.

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