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McCain At The SRLC

Last night at the SRLC, John McCain drew the unenviable task of speaking after former Congressman J.C. Watts. Depending upon how much a conspiracy theorist you are, this could have been either sheer coincidence or the devilish, micro-detailed machinations of pro-Frist forces seeking to give their man every possible advantage playing on his home field.

Nevertheless, McCain did his best, starting with a smart, if somewhat risqué joke that paid homage to Watts’s inimitable speaking style and also lowered the expectation bar back down to a more manageable level. “I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s fifth husband on his wedding night,” McCain deadpanned, “I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t know how to make it interesting.”

By the time McCain took the stage people had already been buzzing about his plan to tell delegates to write President Bush's name down on their straw poll ballots, saying "personal amibitions should be a distant second" to standing with President Bush in the war on terror. The implication, however, is that McCain wants to avoid an embarrassing showing in the straw poll so he chose to try and deligitimize it - which is pretty ironic since straw polls aren't all that legitimate to begin with. Anyway, Drudge is now touting this as a huge embarrassment for McCain, though my sense is that might be overstating things a bit.

One more note from McCain's speech last night. Among the "straight talk" he offered to the delegates was the view that killing the Dubai ports deal was a mistake. McCain talked about depth of our relationship with the UAE, especially with regard to how much logistical assistance our Navy receives from Dubai, and how it was harmful to America's effort to win the war for the hearts and minds of the Arab people around the world. He said he felt the decision to kill the deal was premature and not handled particuarly well by Congress: "The president deserved better," McCain said to a smattering of applause.