My friends, the American people have spoken and I concede that Barack Obama is the next president of the United States.
I’ve been looking forward to this: now that the race is finally over, I would like to take a moment for some straight talk.
My friends, in the 2000 presidential campaign I was devastated by the treatment I received from the shameless and cynical campaign of George W. Bush. Before the South Carolina primary, the Bush campaign ran a vicious smear campaign against me and appealed to the worst in the voters. I should never have allowed my campaign to be overtaken by the same cynical strategists, like Steve Schmidt, who helped organize those attacks on me in 2000. I made a mistake when I approved of the misleading robocalls tying my opponent to William Ayers. Such behavior lowered my campaign to Bush’s level and I regret this, because, as I told my opponent in our final debate, I am not George Bush.
I am joined onstage by Governor Palin. I have called her the greatest vice-presidential candidate in history and, in retrospect, that was an exaggeration. I mean, no offense to you personally, Governor, but you were not my first choice. I wanted Joe Lieberman. I shouldn’t have let my staff talk me into choosing you. When we appear on stage together like we are right now, it makes me feel kind of uncomfortable, that’s why I’m smiling so big. See, I don’t know where to put my hands: should I clasp them in front of me, should I let them hang at my side? I don’t know. And, also, I really didn’t know that you really didn’t know very much about world affairs. I should have known that.
I hear your booing, my friends, and I respect your opinions, but I have to keep going here because it just feels so good to talk straight, like John McCain does! I’m John McCain and I am not George Bush.
I shouldn’t have sacrificed my beliefs in this campaign just to appeal to the Christian conservative base of the Republican Party. You see, my friends, I was told that I couldn’t win the election without the support of the right wing. So I promoted offshore drilling, I reversed my position on the use of torture, I courted insane zealots like Jerry “agent of intolerance” Falwell, I chose Sarah Palin as my running mate. As I told my old friend David Letterman, I screwed up, okay? I screwed up! Do I need to say it again? No? I kind of want to, though, it feels good: I screwed up!
My friends, I’m the original maverick. The original, okay? There was no such thing as a maverick until I invented it and people said, “Huh? What is this guy? I’ve never seen anything like it” and then someone else said, “He’s called the maverick and there’s never been one before.” Be that as it may, I shouldn’t have pretended to suspend my campaign when the bailout bill was proposed in Congress. I thought that was a maverick move, but it was a bad idea. It’s just that I didn’t know what to do about the financial crisis, my friends. You know that. I just thought that if I suspended my campaign it would make me appear more serious. I should not have done that.
Now, I want to take a moment to talk to Joe the Plumber, if he’s out there. Joe? I’m talking right to you here, buddy. Ignore these other people, I’m not talking to them. Joe, my old friend, pay your taxes.
My friends, I knew all along I shouldn’t have let my campaign get so negative. I wanted to run a positive, clean campaign because that’s what the American people want and that’s who John McCain is. But, see, I was surrounded by people who didn’t think I could win unless I disqualified Obama and made him frightening. It hurt me to attack my opponent for things that had nothing to do with the election, but I was told that I had to.
I guess the main thing I want to say is that I should have been the leader of my own campaign. My campaign managers told me to do things that I did not want to do and I should have trusted my instincts, taken control of the campaign and rejected the bad ideas and the nasty attacks. I didn’t. I know that.
America, I’m sorry.
Now, George Bush would never say he’s sorry, so that’s how you know that I am not George Bush.