No Comment — October 21, 2008, 12:50 pm

The Best of the ’08 Campaign I: Best Speech in a Comic Mode

We now are entering into the last fortnight of the 2008 Presidential Campaign. This period often marks the final descent into demagoguery, character assassination and hysteria as appeals are launched to the baser instincts of the populace in an effort to deflect reason. All who use such tactics are worthy of a firm rebuke and not worthy of a vote. But I would like instead to highlight some of the positive moments of the 2008 campaign in a series of posts in which I hope to highlight things done well.

My first award is for the best speech in a comic mode, and the winner is Senator John McCain. The speech was delivered on October 16 at the annual Al Smith Dinner, an event supporting Catholic charities hosted in New York. It is a white-tie affair, and by tradition, every four years both major party presidential candidates are invited to speak. The guidelines are clear. The speaker needs to finish in less than fifteen minutes and he needs to be funny. The speeches delivered at this year’s function were among the most entertaining ever (Obama proved himself very able), but the best performance was certainly McCain’s. Watch the presentation here:

Many observers have commented that the John McCain who appeared at the three presidential debates is not the John McCain they know. I belong to that group. The John McCain I know is this man: jovial, relaxed and having good fun as he takes good-natured jabs at his colleagues and himself. McCain’s problem in the debates has boiled down to one thing: the dynamics of the campaign put him in a position in which he had to be tough and on the attack, landing hard blows. It’s clear that this is not a role that McCain likes, and in fact he feels awkward trying to fulfill it. Looking back at this campaign over time, this is the McCain speech I want to remember.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
Introducing the February Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ruin of the West
Christopher Ketcham investigates Cliven Bundy’s years-long battle with the BLM, Annie Murphy reflects on Bolivia’s lost coast, and more
Painting by Richard Prince, whose work was on view in October at Gagosian Gallery in New York City © The artist. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:

22,000

A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.

A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today