The following is the text of an e-mail that yours truly sent during a relatively brief e-mail exchange with Lisa Schiffren of National Review Online. It summarizes my thoughts on John McCain's much-celebrated concession speech:
The moment John McCain secured the Republican nomination, I suspected that he (and the party heavyweights) would treat his nomination as if it were a lifetime achievement award for an old warrior who was predestined to lose, just as Bob Dole and Jack Kemp had more or less done in 1996. It was my sense that rather than use his nomination to establish himself as the leader of his party, or as an advocate for any particular policy initiative or political ideology, McCain would view his candidacy as the means by which his legacy would be cemented: as the devoted, life-long servant to his country whose cordial, gentlemanly campaign stayed out of the way as his barrier-breaking opponent steamrolled his/her way into the history books (I suspected that McCain and the GOP establishment had thrown in the towel before they even knew whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee). McCain would essentially be Stephen Douglas, or Sonny Liston, or the pitcher who served up the ball that Hank Aaron hit out of the park to break Babe Ruth's home run record.
Each time McCain delivered a campaign speech, I wondered if he was actually trying to win votes, or if he was merely attempting to define the themes of his political legacy. Barack Obama promised to change the country and change the world, even if he never quite told us how he planned to do so. John McCain's campaign reminded us that McCain had always put country first: If McCain failed to articulate a consistent, policy based, vision for the country, he succeeded in reminding us of his impressive history as a hero, a maverick, and bi-partisan reformer.
When John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, I actually started to think that maybe McCain wasn't merely content with taking a fall after all. Maybe he was actually serious about winning. The mainstream media had laid out* and given their seal of approval** to several safe, respectable and mind-numbingly boring potential running mates for McCain to chose between (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Joe Lieberman). Had McCain chosen any of the MSM-approved dead-weight running mates, the media would have treated the old man to a respectful enough send off down the political river Stix. Then McCain threw the Obama campaign and the Obama-partisan mainstream media for a loop with the choice of Palin, which caught them off guard like a sucker punch to the throat. For a moment, it appeared as though McCain was really trying to win. But alas, the final 3 months of the campaign revealed scant evidence that McCain was truly "in it to win it," as Hillary Clinton might say.
Ultimately, the more I heard McCain on the campaign trail, the more I envisioned him delivering his concession speech. I'm not the least bit surprised that McCain's concession speech was so well delivered. He's been practicing it for almost a year.
* The Monday following McCain's surprise choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate (Palin was introduced at a Friday morning rally in Dayton, Ohio), ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin said on WLS AM radio in Chicago that McCain was "irresponsible" for having chosen Palin. He actually said that members of the media (it appeared as though he implicitly included himself in that group) had made it known to McCain which candidates would be considered "acceptable" running mates.
** ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin said that there had been several acceptable choices for running mate available to McCain, all of whom the Washington, D.C., media had thoroughly investigated and been prepared to provide commentary on. Halperin said that McCain had been "irresponsible" and "reckless" for having chosen the then-unknown Sarah Palin as his running mate. He stated that McCain had "no business" picking Palin, as she had been not been investigated by the Washington Press Corps.
Additionally, Mr. Halperin said that the media had "waves" of investigative reporters en route to Alaska who would look under every rock to find unflattering information on Governor Palin. He stated flatly that McCain would be maid to "pay" for having chosen Palin as his running mate, and that he would ultimately regret having made the unconventional (i.e., not sanctioned by unofficially -- but obviously -- pro-Obama mainstream political media).