Having watched Barak Obama give his speech from Denver, I also wanted to watch the speeches by Sarah Palin and John McCain. Though I won't vote for them, come hell or high water, I had to see what they were about. The Republican speeches were interesting from a rhetorical perspective if nothing else.
I admit to wanting to see Palin flounder, but clearly she didn't. She was clearly preaching to the choir, and that made her coming out party all the easier. It will be interesting to see how she handles the campaign. Perhaps what I found most disconcerting is the way the families (her family, Obama's, McCain's, you name it) as props. The PBS Savvy Voter guide, the Dissect an Ad in particular, talks about these sorts of things, along with candidate mythologies, which might be the most important since its the most focused upon. To trot the family out as props and then complain about the media digging into the family story seems disingenuous at best, downright dishonest more likely. Palin's mythology of "hockey mom" fits the "woman next door" and "woman of the people" mythology, particularly with the demonizing of the so-called "elites" in the media and our nation's capital. Me, I want elites in our nation's capital. We've seen what happens when we go for the men and women of the people. Republicanism (not the party, but the political philosophy) is all about voters choosing those who will represent them. Who do we want but the best and brightest? It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but American voters seem to suck this sort of stuff up. It's democracy run amok. Sure, we're all created equal and endowed with unalienable rights, but that doesn't mean we are all equally capable of leading and running government, but this "woman of the people" is a powerful candidate mythology and it works well, which is too bad.
McCain played up his "war hero" and "savior" mythologies. He also ended well, with a great peroration (that's a final, heightened appeal for support if you don't know or remember). If I had never heard of him, or knew nothing about him, watching his speech I would feel okay about voting for him. But it's all that was left unsaid in his speech that is the sort of thing that makes it so I couldn't vote for him. The only specific that appealed to me, in a selfish way, and the only absolutely specific thing he pitched, was doubling the child tax credit. That would put a few thousand bucks in my pocket (or to be used for paying bills, the more likely prospect). Otherwise, he was speaking in rather broad platitudes, perhaps relying on code words when promoting vouchers, the right to life (unless you've been sentenced to death), market approaches to providing health care coverage and the like. It's the Supreme Court I have a lot of concern for, because there will certainly be vacancies in the next term or two, and I don't want the so-called "strict constructionist" approach that gets ignored by current conservatives on the bench, particularly when the Court ruled that the first half of the Second Amendment was superfluous. They ignored the whole reason the Amendment was written as it was, which is hardly strict or constructionist. Despite all of this, McCain is, or maybe was, the least objectionable of the Republican candidates. If not for Palin, maybe I could be okay with his election, but Lieberman would have been as bad or worse as a VP, but that's history.
When it comes to the speeches, to say that anyone gave a good speech is a huge stretch. Anyone who thinks Palin had even modest input into her speech, which I read today had been written weeks in advance for an unknown candidate, is a dupe. She didn't give a good speech. She read the speech well. She was basically a shill for the party. I don't know who wrote it, but she didn't. The same goes for McCain. He read a good speech, written by others, though I'm sure he had much more input into it than Palin. How much Obama writes his own material, I don't know, but at least he can write his own memoirs without the aid of a ghost writer (ala John McCain). That leads me to think he had greater input into the crafting of his speeches. Still, even with him, a listener has to be at least a little skeptical. I wonder how many people think what Palin said, or what McCain said, actually sprouted from their own brains and experiences, their own abilities? Probably the most authentic in this way would be Obama, with McCain and Biden in pretty much the same boat and Palin bringing up the rear.