Monday, September 08, 2008
On this day:

What a difference a week makes

Here are the latest polling results in the presidential race:
USA-Today: McCain up by 4 among registered 10 among likely voters.

Gallup: McCain up by 3 among registered voters. (pre-convention, Gallup had Obama up by 8)

Zogby: McCain up by 4 among likely voters.
Lots of folks are attributing McCain's bounce in the polls to his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. I don't doubt that that's part of it, but the biggest contributor, in my opinion, is John McCain himself. His speech at the convention - which was watched by more people than any other convention speech in history - was the first time that many Americans had really been introduced to John McCain. And what an introduction it was.

Over the past few days, I've heard pundits criticize McCain's speech for a multitude of reasons: it was lacking in policy detail, the delivery wasn't that good, it was too long or too disjointed. All of those things may be true. But the thing that got me - and I suspect the thing that impressed lots of other Americans out here in the hinterlands - was that it was so moving and so morally compelling. I can't remember hearing any politician - much less a candidate for President - bare his soul as much as John McCain did in his speech Thursday night. Here's the prime example:
I was in solitary confinement when my captors offered to release me. I knew why. If I went home, they would use it as propaganda to demoralize my fellow prisoners. Our Code said we could only go home in the order of our capture, and there were men who had been shot down before me. I thought about it, though. I wasn’t in great shape, and I missed everything about America. But I turned it down.

A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I’d been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn’t know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.

I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.
That part of McCain's speech managed to bring a tear to my eye, but I wish it would've brought two. Full of "selfish independence," McCain attempted to face down the devil and found himself too weak to do it alone. The story is so compelling because it's so familiar. It's just an old war story, but it's our story, too.