Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in all but name, has spent this week on an autobiographical road trip, seeking to pull attention from the still combative Democratic contest by highlighting important places in his remarkable life story. But if the "Service to America Tour" has shown the strength of McCain's biography, it has also underscored his real weakness as a speech-maker.
We're talking style here, not substance. But in oratory, this is not a minor detail. In formal speeches - like those delivered this week at his Alexandria, Va., high school and at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958, despite what he called "an impressive catalogue of demerits" - McCain (R-Ariz.) appears dependent on a teleprompter, delivering even the most personal passages with an odd detachment. In his telling, his difficult five-and-a-half years as Vietnam prisoner of war might have happened to someone else.