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Obama Attacks McCain's Strength, Weakness


It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Barack Obama's convention speech last night reflected a truism of modern politics. You don't just attack an opponent's weakness. You attack an opponent's strength. A famous example came in 2004, when Republican denounced John Kerry's reputation as a war hero. Last night, Barack Obama was defending himself against attacks and also questioning one of John McCain's perceived strengths. It was McCain's experience on national security issues. NPR's Don Gonyea was watching the speech at a stadium in Denver.

DON GONYEA: The crowd had been in place for hours, gradually filling the massive Invesco Field over the course of the afternoon. They cheered speeches by former Vice President Al Gore and others and they danced in their seats to live musical performances by the likes of Motown great Stevie Wonder. But when Senator Barack Obama finally stepped onto the stage, the place lit up.



BARACK OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

GONYEA: The joyous reception in part reflected the historic nature of the evening, on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Here stood Barack Obama, an African-American, uttering the following words.

OBAMA: With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.


GONYEA: In his speech, Obama set about the task of defining just why the country needs change in the White House. He spoke of an economy where more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less.

OBAMA: These challenges are not all of government's making, but the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.


OBAMA: America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

GONYEA: Obama said that electing John McCain will mean more of the same.

OBAMA: We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight.


OBAMA: On November 4th - on November 4th we must stand up and say, eight is enough.

GONYEA: Obama predicted that at next week's Republican convention, Senator McCain will highlight his independent streak and the times he's broken from his party.

OBAMA: But the record is clear. John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

GONYEA: Last night, Senator Obama's strongest attacks on McCain came in the area of national security. He said John McCain deserves respect for wearing the uniform of the country with bravery, a reference to McCain's time as a POW. But Obama questioned McCain's judgment on the Iraq war and other matters.

OBAMA: You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and detour Iran just by talking tough in Washington.

GONYEA: And Senator Obama directly confronted what has long been a Republican line of attack on Democrats - that they are weak in national security.

OBAMA: We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So, don't tell me the Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me the Democrats won't keep us safe.

GONYEA: Looking out of the huge crowd, Obama spoke of the journey he has taken since declaring his then underdog candidacy 19 months ago. His name and his background make him, quote, "not the likeliest candidate for this office."

OBAMA: But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring.


OBAMA: What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's about you.


GONYEA: It was a speech with high expectations, and judging by the audience response, Obama met them. Afterward, at an appearance before a gathering of backers, he acknowledged that next week in Minneapolis, Republicans will turn the tables and have their share of fun at the expense of Democrats. But then, he said, the battle will be on for the final intense two months of the campaign. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Don Gonyea
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.