By Quin Hillyer at The Washington Examiner;

On a single night 30 years ago this month, when a faltering presidential campaign desperately needed a boost, a youngish senator and an old president gave two of the greatest political convention speeches ever — stressing themes and sensibilities Americans today risk foolishly abandoning.

For President Ronald Reagan, it was the first in a series of valedictory speeches. For John McCain, known as a war hero and energetic senator but not yet a political heavyweight, it was a commencement into the very top ranks of national politics. For three decades since, their mutual themes remained an admirable touchstone of McCain’s life.

The mood as the Republican National Convention opened in New Orleans that day was profoundly nervous. Behind the scenes, campaign manager Lee Atwater had been raging all weekend, feeling the pressure of Vice President George H. W. Bush’s 17-point poll deficit to Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis, the Democratic nominee. If Bush lost, the Reagan mission would have remained unfinished, and momentum toward toppling the Soviet Empire surely lost.

Into that maw stepped McCain. With the convention desperately needing a rocket-lift speech to open prime time proceedings, the senator delivered. To be in the convention hall that night, for both McCain and Reagan’s speeches, was to experience the warmth of political and patriotic uplift as a rare and treasured gift.

McCain’s speech is most remembered for his now-familiar story of fellow POW Mike Christian, beaten to a pulp by Communist captors for the sin of sewing an American flag into his prison shirt, only to start re-sewing a new flag into his shirt as soon as the beatings stopped.

“He was not making that flag because it made Mike Christian feel better,” McCain said. “He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for [his fellow captives] to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and our country.”….

[For the rest, which includes the most important points about how McCain and Reagan specifically echoed each other, please read the full column.]

 

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