After watching the Super Bowl tonight—I mean, Barack Obama’s acceptance speech—I have come to the following conclusion. It’s impossible for John McCain to try to compete with Obama in terms of oratory and pyrotechnics. So there’s only one thing for McCain to do. Something that is thoroughly consistent with who he is, his life’s path, and the campaign for the presidency he is running.
For his acceptance speech, McCain should do the exact opposite of what Obama did tonight. In light of this over-the-top spectacle, McCain should deliver his acceptance speech this way:
Take a plain wooden stool, carry it to the middle of the stage, and sit on it, with one foot on a rung and the other foot on the ground. Take a handheld microphone, and then speak without a teleprompter, without notes, without contrivance. Deliver his speech with a confident humility. Sotto voce. Obama’s speech blew people AWAY from him, like the guy in the Memorex commercial. McCain should make people LEAN IN to him, listening with a keen ear. The booming voice has power. But so does the quiet one.
McCain does this well anyway, and it will be a brilliant counterpoint to the path Obama chose tonight. If McCain goes intimate, humble, conversational, he will beat Obama at his own game. You don’t compete with Obama—with the Acropolis and the fake Oval Office set design and Springsteen and Oprah and the confetti and the Grucci fireworks and the preacher’s cadence and Bon Jovi and whatever else Obama had going on.
McCain should go in the opposite direction: be proud but not boastful, humble but not meek, strong but not overweening, passionate but not phony, principled but not fatally idealistic. Obama’s speech was majestic, yes. But there is a quiet majesty McCain can mine, by sitting on a simple stool and speaking softly while carrying a big stick.
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