McCain from his long lifetime of experience to reference elections from over 100 years ago.
“I believe that people are interested very much in substance,” McCain said. “If it was simply style, William Jennings Bryan would have been president.”
Best to make comparisons to events you can remember, of course.
In all seriousness, it’s an interesting comparison by McCain. Bryan really did seem to be more style over substance – at least early in his career. He talked often of ideas that became progressive cornerstones in the 20th century, but had some serious flaws when it came to acting on those ideas. McCain’s intent is clear; try to imply that Obama is “just like” Bryan. However, I don’t know how effective that’s going to be. After all, most people are going to reply “who the hell is William Jennings Bryan? Isn’t he the anchor on the NBC Nightly News?” And while Bryan was a flawed man (supporting Prohibition, anti-Darwinism, and not fighting for the rights of minorities like he did for women) – and aren’t we all – Obama doesn’t seem to have the same kinds of gaping holes in his character. And while Bryan had much more notable political accomplishments after his failed presidential runs (he only had 4 years in office before his first run, and eventually served as Secretary of State), Obama has already had some significant legislative success.
Obama is no empty suit with a gilded voice. And despite a reference that the vast majority of voters won’t even get, neither was Bryan.
(Ironically, it occurred to me that most people who will get the reference will recognize him from the Scopes Monkey Trial… and given that he was for creationism, something much of McCain’s base supports, I’m not sure it’ll be taken quite as well as he’s hoping. All-in-all, it’s just a bizarre reference to make.)