Sunday, November 16, 2008

Political Theater in the McCain Concession

Theater plays a central role in politics.  The stage design of presidential debates shapes the interaction of its characters; the tension in the John Williams score that introduces Meet the Press foreshadows a focused and rigorous exchange; and the ubiquitous station colors of red, white, and blue remind us of our final allegiances.

But the music for John McCain's November 4 concession speech raised the bar.

The song playing as McCain ascended the rostrum was "Victory Lane," by Academy Award Winner Hans Zimmer, from Days of Thunder, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson.  The song playing McCain out was "Roll Tide," by Zimmer, from Crimson Tide, produced by Bruckheimer and Simpson.  Bruckheimer's films have netted 35 Academy Award nominations, and Zimmer's resume includes The Lion King, Gladiator, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

"Victory Lane" is the song that plays when Tom Cruise's character comes from behind to win the Daytona 500.  Four years before Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise played a navy combat pilot named "Maverick" in Top Gun.  "Roll Tide" is from a movie about a fictitious nuclear escalation with Russia, and a power struggle for control of the submarine's nukes between a white, bellicose commander (Gene Hackman) and a black, less-experienced, intellectualizing, and eminently cool lieutenant (Denzel Washington).  The characters in both films are prototypical McCain supporters: southern stock car racers who make disparaging remarks about "Yankees," and military serviceman (aboard the USS Alabama, no less).