I think it’s very clear that John McCain is very bad at making speeches and that Barack Obama is very good at making speeches. Also, you should know that McCain is the candidate Obama was hoping to run against. The contrast in age and vigor is clear. (Of course, McCain’s partisans will add that the contrast in experience is also clear. Yet it’s important to remember that McCain has relatively little executive experience in civilian life.) But I just want to highlight one line I noticed in Obama’s speech.
I honor, we honor the service of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine.
I have to wonder, what exactly is Obama referring to when he suggests that McCain is denying Obama’s accomplishments? My sense is that McCain generally offers a pretty generous assessments of Obama’s many impressive qualities. As to Obama’s accomplishments, are there any in particular that McCain ought to highlight? I realize that this sounds like I’m poking fun, but I’m genuinely curious. I have a few thoughts.
(1) McCain could recognize that Obama was right to oppose the Iraq War. But of course McCain believes that invading Iraq was the right thing to do given what we knew at the time, and making a judgment call on this hardly seems like a distinctive accomplishment along the lines of McCain’s military service. For one thing, Obama was hardly a voice in the wilderness. And he risked relatively little by taking the stand he did given the political coloration of his State Senate district, and the fact that at the time it seemed more plausible that he’d be the next mayor of Chicago than that he’d be the next president of the United States.
(2) McCain could also highlight Obama’s sterling academic credentials, and the fact that Obama majored in international relations as an undergraduate. But one worries that this could be misconstrued as a veiled barb.
(3) McCain could recognize Obama’s political prowess and his rhetorical gifts. But of course he does this very often.
(4) And finally, McCain could recognize that Obama is the transformative figure that America badly needs during this fateful historical moment. This could be interpreted as an accomplishment, i.e., Obama has dedicated his public life to making himself as transformative as possible, and his determination is finally paying off. The trouble is that McCain, as Obama’s political rival, of course is going to be skeptical about this one.
So I have to wonder: what exactly are the Obama accomplishments McCain is denying?
P.S.- In light of a new comment, I’ll add another possibility.
(5) McCain could recognize Obama’s accomplishments as a community organizer and state senator. The trouble is, it is difficult to find reliable metrics. Is it an accomplish simply to work as an organizer, or to get elected to the State Senate? Or should we evaluate whether the community in question is more organized, and whether the end to which it was organized proved fruitful. We have reason to believe that Obama was a leader in the State Senate, and that he helped advance key legislation. But of course it would seem odd for McCain to praise him for having done so, as this is far more true of many less distinguished public officials.