John McCain deserves tremendous credit for maintaining his cool while being repeatedly interrupted by protesters. Somehow, he managed not to lash out or show visible irritation. I kept expecting him to yell, “What the hell did you ever do for your country? Don’t you think I deserve to be heard? Have I earned that much?” He soared above it.
On the other hand, I have to rate the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the speech as weak. It had the same uninspiring feeling of a George W. Bush State of the Union. The laundry list, the calling out of ordinary Americans. When he started naming people struggling with recession, I thought of some campaign functionary looking at the poll results. “Cares about people like me” — Check. The first part of the speech had to be endured, sort of like direct mail that repeats the old pattern and the old tricks. You have to wade through it to get to the meat.
The good news is that there was meat. McCain got through the faux SOTU and began talking about what really matters — who he is, what his life has been like, why he is ready to lead. When he talked about that, the tingle started to develop. You could feel it. The contrast sharpened almost painfully. You realized, “Barack Obama has scarcely held a full-time job and we are about to elect pretty words when we desperately need a veteran.” That’s when John McCain scored. Scored points in bunches. He shook off a tired old cocoon and metamorphosed into the great man when he did that.