McCain promises to make changes, shake up politics in Washington
ST. PAUL -- John McCain promised Thursday to change Washington by getting along with the opposition, reforming government and, in general, putting the country first.
The maverick politician showed both his quiet and his tough sides in accepting the Republican presidential nomination.
"I wouldn't be an American worthy of the name if I didn't honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement," he said of Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
"But let there be no doubt, my friends, we're going to win this election. And after we've won, we're going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace."
Several times early in his speech, people in the balcony of St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center shouted opposition to McCain, each time rebutted by 20,000 Republicans with shouts of "U.S.A."
"Americans want us to stop yelling at each other," McCain said to quell the disturbances.
McCain promised to smooth over differences in Washington, much like he worked to open American relations with Vietnam, which held him prisoner of war for more than five years.
"The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom," he said. "It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you."
Republican delegates at the Xcel Energy Center enthusiastically greeted McCain, applauding several minutes before allowing him to begin his speech. He spoke from a podium at the end of a runway jutting into the crowded arena floor.
He promised to work with Democrats. He also tried to emphasize his maverick image: "I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I work for you."
McCain's speech concluded a four-day Republican National Convention that started slowly when the candidate asked GOP leaders to tone down activities in light of Hurricane Gustav. However, the convention returned to partisan attacks and strong rhetoric Wednesday night when McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, fired up Republicans.
Before McCain got up to talk, the convention loudly voted to officially make Palin its vice presidential candidate.
As was the case the first three days of the convention, much of the attention was focused on Palin, the first female GOP vice presidential candidate.
"I'm very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country," McCain said. "But I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd -- change is coming."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a national McCain campaign co-chairman, emphasized McCain's character during a brief speech.
"Barack Obama gives a good speech," Pawlenty said. "But the best sermons aren't preached, they're lived.
"John McCain's whole life is a testimony to service, duty, courage and common sense. John McCain has walked the walk, and he has always put our country first"
Pawlenty, who finished No. 2 to Palin in the vice presidential contest, is a long-time McCain friend and has been a loyal supporter even during the McCain campaign's tough times.
"John McCain is tough -- but he's also compassionate," Pawlenty said. "I've gotten to know John, and I can tell you he is a Purple Heart recipient with a heart of gold."
McCain's trip to the presidential election dates back years. He lost to eventual winner George W. Bush in 2000, but earned a national reputation for being a political maverick, even bucking his own party at times.
In 2008, Democrats have criticized him as losing some of those maverick qualities, but supporters say his Palin pick proves he remains individualistic. She has a reputation similar to McCain after beating a fellow Republican to win the governorship.
While Republican delegates in St. Paul loved Palin's address Wednesday night, on Thursday Obama said he did not like what he has heard from Palin and the convention.
"Over the last two nights, if you sit there and you watch it, you're hearing a lot about John McCain -- and he's got a compelling biography as a POW," Obama told voters. "You're hearing an awful lot about me, most of which is not true. What you're not hearing is a lot about you."
He complained that Republicans have not talked about health care, creating apprenticeship programs, looking for alternative energy or ways to strengthen unions.
The best-known fact about McCain, who turned 72 a week ago today, is the five and a half years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. That story has been retold time and again during the four-day convention as part of Republicans' feeling that service to country is important.