Sunday, September 7, 2008

East Bay delegates generally praise McCain speech

ST. PAUL, Minn. — John McCain, a man who made his name in politics as a party-bucking maverick, accepted the Republican party's presidential nomination Thursday night declaring he would reject partisan politics and urging Americans to "stand up and fight."

After making a dramatic entrance, with a spotlight trained on him in a darkened convention center, McCain emphasized his experience on foreign and domestic initiatives and sought to present himself as the only candidate with enough experience to make change happen.

"I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not," said McCain, who only last fall was considered a long shot for the GOP nomination.

East Bay delegates applauded the senator's speech.

"I am so inspired," said Jill Buck of Pleasanton, who is a retired Naval officer like McCain. "That was a leader's speech. He is just what the country needs."

McCain touched on his policy differences with his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, a few times in the middle of the speech.

In contrast, Obama used his acceptance speech delivered a week ago in a Denver football stadium to give his harshest assessment yet of McCain.

From early in the day, with news that the convention hall was being remade, conventiongoers were expecting McCain to break some traditions.

He still stood at a podium, Advertisementbut at the end of a runway that jutted into the seating area so he could be surrounded by delegates on three sides.

"You know, I've been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it's meant as a compliment, sometimes it's not. What it really means is I understand who I work for. I don't work for a party.

"I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you."

Much of his speech was a pitch to independent voters concerned about the economy, the very voters he needs to woo in key swing states.

"He did a good job on focusing on some of the issues, particularly the economy, the most important issues to voters," said Melinda Jackson, an assistant professor of political science at San Jose State. She said he was making a pitch to independents by stressing his call for change in Washington. "I think it's a tricky issue to run on because his party has been the party in office for the last eight years, but he needs to win them."

McCain sought to stress his experience and credentials as a reformer who also has a unique understanding of global military threats.

"We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them. I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it shouldn't do,'' he said. "I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it."

Sean Walsh, an Oakland political consultant and former top aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said McCain "hit the key issues and drew a contrast and let (vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah) Palin be the attack hockey mom, or as she said, the pit bull with lipstick."

UC Berkeley public policy professor Henry Brady offered a far less positive assessment. He called it a weak policy speech that relied too heavily on McCain's biography and glossed over the senator's role in some of the nation's current problems.

"I don't think it was a great speech," Brady said "He didn't talk about health care or housing or gas prices. Yes, he's a hero, but what will he do to run the country?"

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