"I will be the Republican nominee for president"

In a speech, John McCain claims his victory.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 5, 2008 3:26AM (EST)

On John McCain's big night, his teleprompter failed, and it showed. He should have been basking in the glow of his clinching of the Republican presidential nomination, but instead McCain had a perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look for his victory speech. And even for a man not known for his speechifying, McCain's delivery was stilted and off; he seemed wooden, and emphasized the wrong words and phrases.

But on paper, the victory speech was a good one. "I am very pleased to note that tonight, my friends, we have won enough delegates to claim with confidence, humility and a sense of great responsibility that I will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States," McCain said.

Now, we begin the most important part of our campaign: To make a respectful, determined and convincing case to the American people that our campaign and my election as President, given the alternatives presented by our friends in the other party, are in the best interests of the country we love. I have never believed I was destined be President. I don't believe anyone is pre-destined to lead America. But I do believe we are born with responsibilities to the country that has protected our God-given rights, and the opportunities they afford us. I did not grow up with the expectation that my country owed me more than the rights owed every American. On the contrary, I owe my country every opportunity I have ever had. I owe her the meaning that service to America has given my life, and the sense that I am part of something greater than myself, part of a kinship of ideals that have always represented the last, best hope of mankind.

McCain also took the opportunity to set out his position on Iraq during the general election, an exhortation not to focus on the past -- that is, the decision to invade, and presumably McCain's support of that decision, which would also tie him to the unpopular current president -- but to look to the future of the country.

America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past. I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime as I criticized the failed tactics that were employed for too long to establish the conditions that will allow us to leave that country with our country's interests secure and our honor intact. But Americans know that the next President doesn't get to re-make that decision. We are in Iraq and our most vital security interests are clearly involved there. The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide; destabilizing the entire Middle East.

After going through discussions of a few other issues separating him and the Democratic candidates, McCain ended on another part of the speech that could have been good if delivered properly -- it also seemed a continuation of his messaging on Iraq. "Nothing is inevitable in America. We are the captains of our fate. We're not a country that prefers nostalgia to optimism; a country that would rather go back than forward," McCain said. "We're the world's leader, and leaders don't pine for the past and dread the future. We make the future better than the past. We don't hide from history. We make history. That, my friends, is the essence of hope in America, hope built on courage, and faith in the values and principles that have made us great. I intend to make my stand on those principles and chart a course for our future greatness, and trust in the judgment of the people I have served all my life."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.