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 Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Contrast: The Speeches of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama


  • John McCain Talks Negatively About Barack Obama

  • Hillary Clinton Talks Boastfully About Herself and What She Wants

  • Barack Obama Talks Proudly About America and Americans

  • John McCain

    After months of ceding the spotlight to the battle between the Democratic Party candidates, Sen. John McCain declared a two-man race Tuesday night and wasted no time courting supporters of second-place finisher Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Using a mocking tone, the 71-year-old McCain cast presumptive nominee Barack Obama, who is 46, as "a young man" who has bought into the "failed ideas" and "big-government solutions" of the past.

    He even took a swipe at Obama's campaign slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," by offering his own new slogan: "A Leader We Can Believe In," which was prominently posted on a green placard behind him.

    McCain has avoided directly criticizing Clinton in recent weeks, and Tuesday night he praised the New York senator's "tenacity and courage" and said she deserved "a lot more appreciation" than she received.

    Throughout his speech, McCain ridiculed Obama's message of change by arguing the Illinois senator promises a return to big-government policies of the 1960s and '70s.

    He also was critical of Obama's vow to set aside partisanship to accomplish his goals. "One of us has a record of working to do that and one of us doesn't," McCain said.

    "He's an impressive man who makes a great first impression," he said. "But he hasn't been willing to make the tough calls, to challenge his party, to risk criticism from his supporters, to bring real change to Washington -- I have."
    Read here for more

    Hillary Clinton

    The day started with reports that Hillary Clinton would concede, followed shortly after by talk from the candidate herself that she'd consider accepting the No. 2 spot.

    Speaking at the end of the day in her adopted state, Clinton said that she would be “making no decisions tonight,” but vowed that whatever she decided would be in the best interests of her party.

    She later turned to the ultimate question, acknowledging that many are asking, “What does Hillary want?”

    One of the things she listed was that the “nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard, and no longer to be invisible.”

    Your spirit has inspired me every day in this race,” she said. “Time and again, you reached out to help me.”

    The crowd then started chanting “Denver! Denver! Denver!” repeatedly. Clinton continued over the chants, “Now there were days when I had the strength enough to fight for all of us. And on the days that I didn’t, I leaned on you.” She was counted out after Iowa, she said, before listing many of the victories that followed.

    “Now the question is: Where do we go from here?” she said. “Now given how far we’ve come and where we need to go as a party, it’s a question I don’t take lightly. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight.”

    Evoking a common refrain from a campaign that began over a year ago, said told supporters she wanted to hear from them, directing them to go to her Web site. The home page now asks visitors not for money, but to “stand with Hillary today and send your message of support.”

    In the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to more forward with the best interests of our party guiding my way,” she said.
    Read here for more

    Barack Obama

    “Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

    “Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America."

    “America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love."

    “We’ve certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who’s shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning — even in the face of tough odds — is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; ... an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be."

    “Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she’s a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she’s a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight."

    “In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honour that service, we honour the service of John McCain. And I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign."

    “There are many words to describe John McCain’s attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush’s policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them."

    “Change is a foreign policy that doesn’t begin and end with a war that should’ve never been authorised and never been waged. I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what’s not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years — especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored."

    “It’s not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college — policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt."

    “It’s time to refocus our efforts on Al-Qaeda’s leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century — terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease."

    “Change is realising that meeting today’s threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy — tough, direct diplomacy where the president of the United States isn’t afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. "

    “There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn’t just about the party in charge of Washington, it’s about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation."

    “The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth." Read here for more



    From Sheldon Alberts: Read here

    On a night when every major news outlet in North America trumpeted the news Barack Obama had become the first black presidential nominee in U.S. history, the one person who made no mention of the historic occasion was the candidate himself.

    That was not the most interesting twist during a fascinating night of American politics, but it was pretty darn close. Obama - a man born of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya - had almost nothing to say about the significance of his success in in a nation still struggling with the legacy of slavery.

    It says something about just how potent, how dangerous the race issue is in American politics, and certainly for Obama's campaign, that his only reference to civil rights came in a passing reference to marchers in Selma, Alabama.

    As long as there's YouTube video of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and now Rev. Michael Pfleger, don't expect Obama to dwell on race over the next five months unless it's to put out another political fire.

    But what we do know about Obama tonight is that he is now, indisputably, the Democratic nominee.

    Hillary Clinton's supporters may not recognize it - why else did they shout "Denver, Denver" during her speech in New York?? - but the surge of superdelegates to Obama's campaign seals the deal even if the best he could manage on the final night of primaries was a split in Montana and South Dakota.

    Will Hillary follow up on her threat to challenge the party's compromise on Michigan? This possibility seems more remote by the hour - Democratic leaders wouldn't stand for it, and Clinton may lose some of her own superdelegate support if she pushes that issue to hard, or too far.

    But her tone and demeanour tonight was not one of a vanquished candidate.

    There was some kind words for Obama, but they were as inscrutable as they were gracious.

    "I want to start tonight by congratulating Senator Obama and his supporters on the extraordinary race that they have run. Senator Obama has inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved, and our party and our democracy is stronger and more vibrant as a result. So, we are grateful, and it has been an honor to contest these primaries with him, just as it is an honor to call him my friend. And tonight, I would like all of us to take a moment to recognize him and his supporters for all they have accomplished."
    But for most of the speech, Clinton sounded very much like a politician who she believed had some big time bargaining power even in defeat. No concession, no acknowledgement of Obama's seeming victory. Instead Clinton trumpeted her own moral victory in the (somewhat disputed) popular vote and teasing Obama about her plans.

    An excerpt: "Now the question is, where do we go from here, and given how far we've come and where we need to go as a party, it's a question I don't take lightly. This has been a long campaign, and I will be making no decisions tonight. But this has always been your campaign, so to the 18 million people who voted for me and to our many other supporters out there of all ages, I want to hear from you. I hope you'll go to my website at and share your thoughts with me and help in any way that you can.

    "In the coming days, I’ll be consulting with supporters and party leaders to determine how to move forward with the best interests of our party and our country guiding my way."

    Clinton still can't match Obama for soaring oratory, but her final speech of the primary campaign was perhaps her finest - touching all right notes about fighting for every American, understanding their struggle, etc.

    Had she delivered this speech during the first three months of the campaign, she might have been the one claiming victory on Tuesday night, not Obama.
    So what does Hillary want? It was no likely no coincidence word leaked from a private conference call that Clinton said she was "open to" being Obama's running mate. But does she really want it, or just want to be asked so she can negotiate something else?

    What leverage does Clinton have? She just won nine of the last 16 nominating contests and has done her best to whip supporters into an Obama-resenting frenzy. He must listen, even if the idea of having Hillary and Bill, and all of his baggage, sharing the Democratic ticket seems like a recipe for disaster.

    With all the drama surrounding Clinton, the first real clash of the general election campaign between Obama and McCain was anti-climactic by comparison.

    McCain, wisely, got some valuable face time on national television by scheduling a prime time speech in New Orleans. What did we learn? We learned that McCain plans to run as far away from George W. Bush as he can without alienating the Republican base. His speech contained a pre-emptive strike against Obama's expected (and delivered) attack on him as a clone of Bush.

    McCain's description of Obama an foolishly naive on foreign policy will be a theme repeated over and over in the upcoming weeks, as will his portrayal of the Illinois senator as a big government liberal who thinks he knows more than ordinary Americans.

    But some advice for McCain. Find a new image consultant. The Arizona senator kicked off the general election campaign standing alone in front of a green backdrop, barely drawing applause from a crowd that one can only presume was very small and half asleep.

    Obama, by contrast, did what Obama does best. There were 20,000 people out to hear him speak, at the same St. Paul, Minn. convention center where Republicans will hold the national convention this September.

    He broke new ground and offered no new promises. But the place had energy. For all his problems - and heaven knows, Obama's got plenty - his campaign on this night seemed like the only one with the heartbeat.

    Barack Obama 'humbled,' Hillary Clinton berated

    Barack Obama's victory speech Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minn. was striking in that he made no reference to the sheer history of the occasion - that he is the first African American to ever win a major party presidential nomination.

    But when reporters tracked him down this morning on Capitol Hill, he'd obviously had some time to let the moment to sink in.

    Here's what Obama said:

    "Obviously it is an enormous honor. It's very humbling. You think about all the people who have knocked down barriers for me to walk through this door.

    And the challenges they went through, which were so much more difficult and so much more severe. And the risks they took were so much greater.

    I will say, last night, standing in that auditorium, it struck me that is was a testimony to them.

    I have heard from a number of people already, both black and white, that their kids - seven, eight, nine years old - take for granted now that, of course, a black can run for president, that a woman can run for president.

    There is a matter-of-factness to it that I think bodes well for the future."

    Meantime, Hillary Clinton is facing a pretty strong backlash - from critics and even diehard supporters - for the speech she delivered Tuesday night in New York. Many Democrats were astonished at the lack of grace in her speech and her refusal to even acknowledge Obama had clinched the nomination.

    This is an especially-sensitive topic for African Americans given the historic nature of the evening.

    Here's what New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, one of Clinton's earliest supporters had to say on MSNBC:

    "After the math was in before her speech that she could have been far more generous in terms of being more specific and saying that she wants a Democratic victory.

    It's not as though there were three or four candidates out there; it was though she was talking about a candidate for the Democratic Party for president of the United States .

    So I don't see what they're talking about in prolonging this. There's nothing to prolong if you're not going to take the fight to the convention floor.

    And she made it abundantly clear, one, she was not going to take it to the floor, and, two, that she was going to do everything that she could to make certain we have a victory.

    We could be on the spot if we don't get some answers about what does it mean when you say that you are not endorsing -- or what does it mean when you say that you're not out of the race.

    It just doesn't make any sense. It's inconsistent with wanting a Democratic victory and not endorsing the Democratic candidate."

    That's from one of Clinton's friends.

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