THE BLOG

McCain Fails to Deliver Any Tropic Thunder

10/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jacob Heilbrunn Author, "They Knew They Were Right: the Rise of the Neocons"

For all the hullabaloo about whether John McCain would match Sarah Palin's performance at the Republican convention, it wasn't even close. Where was the tropic thunder? McCain may have ended his speech with a Knute Rockne-like cry for Americans to fight and fight some more -- for what he never really said -- but most of his speech was a snooze, delivered in the tone of a kindly old uncle reminiscing about World War II before fretting about how how those pesky Russians are stirring up trouble again.

McCain's answer to America's woes seems to be a program of self-improvement -- "serve a goal greater than yourself," he suggested. But he never really explained what that goal might be. After eight years of the Bush administration running two wars without demanding an iota of sacrifice, indeed passing lavish tax cuts, McCain's exhortations could hardly have sounded more empty. In fact, to judge by McCain's talk, the only problem America seems to suffer from is that "some Republicans" -- once again, no names here -- succumbed to the temptation of "corruption." Well, yes. But it was the Bush administration's disdain for government that turned the Iraq War, among other things, into a free-for-all for contractors.

America's economic troubles barely even merited a nod, apart from vague promises to somehow emancipate America from Middle East oil. No doubt Sarah Palin will be offering some pointers in coming days about how Alaska can single-handedly solve that conundrum.

McCain clearly implied that he would like to resurrect the GOP in his own image. But so far, the only thing he has been resurrecting is the religious right by selecting Palin as his sidekick. He tried to make a virtue out of her ignorance, depicting her as a kind of freedom-fighter ignorant of Washington's corrupt ways who would help cleanse it. But for the most part, it hardly seemed like McCain's heart was even in his speech. Was tonight's more moderate version the real McCain? Maybe even he can't tell any longer.