Friday, September 26, 2008

Some Thoughts on the First Debate

The debate just ended. I was struck, from the first moments, that a black man was standing on a stage in Mississippi, running for President of the United States. Extraordinary.

It was a pretty even exchange I thought. This was the Goldilocks debate—Obama needed to avoid coming off too cold and calculated, and McCain needed to avoid appearing too hot tempered. There were mixed results on both sides. McCain employed a more scattershot attack and thus hit more often, but Obama was more focused and hit harder when he connected.

Some thoughts as I recorded them during the debate:

• Oh no! McCain isn’t wearing a flag pin and Obama is! McCain’s an unpatriotic America-hater, or so the argument goes!

• Obama’s right, you don’t heal this economy simply by slashing earmarks and giving tax cuts only to the wealthiest Americans while ignoring the middle and lower classes.

• I’m surprised how little talk is being directed to the lack of regulation that got us to this economic debacle in the first place.

• Now there’s a familiar line: "I've got a pen. (yep, there it is, a black sharpie) I will make (the earmarkers) famous. You will know their names." You can start with Stevens. And Palin, while we’re on the subject of Alaska!

• "John, its been your president who presided over this spending, this orgy of spending," Obama says and says well, tying McCain to the Bush budget woes.

• It’s fun watching McCain squirm while Obama ties him to Bush (though he isn’t doing it nearly enough in my opinion) and then try to unstuck himself.

• It seems to me that the $600 billion we’ve spent in Iraq sure would have come in handy now that we need $700 billion for the Wall St. bailout!

• 40+ minutes and we’re finally talking about national security…

• I am tired of McCain and Co. saying that we should stop arguing about whether or not it was right to go into Iraq and just focus on what to do now that we are there. When you are running for president and you supported the invasion as well as the current sitting president who ordered it, it is very much a valid issue Mr. McCain!

• Obama had a nice retort on the funding for troops issue—both declined bills supporting more troop funding and the reason was the presence or lack of a timetable.

• McCain may have the edge on national security, but Obama wins the day on Iraq.

• McCain: "Sen. Obama has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left."

Legitimately funny!

Obama: "Wildly liberal? Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrongheaded policies."

Nice comeback!

• I love how McCain is chiding Obama for somehow supporting strikes in Pakistan (even as he says, in the very next breath, “If you have to do things, you have to do things.”) when the leader of his own party, President Bush, has ordered exactly that policy, resulting in, I might add, our troops coming under fire from the Pakistanis just yesterday.

• McCain is going to censure Obama about making threats to other countries when he once sang, “Bomb bomb Iran”!? Oh, good, Obama is wondering that too.

• Wouldn’t it be great, McCain is currently saying, if there was an organization of likeminded, freedom-loving countries that could come together and with one will, enact real change and take meaningful stands across the world. Sure would be. It’s called the U.N. senator. You remember them…the group your president thumbed his nose at when he was hellbent on invading Iraq.

• Since when is talking to anyone, our enemies included, with or without conditions, a bad thing? What’s the worst thing that happens, you waste a few words? God knows I wish we’d wasted a few more words before leaping before looking into Iraq.

• Obama just did a nice job of throwing Kissinger’s opinions right back in McCain’s face.

• Oh, so now McCain is saying that talking to those we disagree with legitimizes their opinions! Really? I had no idea, Sen. McCain, that in agreeing to participate in this debate with your democratic rival, that you were, in fact, endorsing all of his liberal ideals!

• Sen. McCain, I have heard no one, on either side of the aisle, applaud Russia for its actions in Georgia. But it is ridiculous to throw Obama’s words back in his face for asking, at the time, that both countries show a little restraint. Senator, if you are not familiar with Georgia’s well-documented treatment and policies toward the Asetians, nor the fact that they started the war in the first place, then perhaps you are not the foreign policy expert you claim to be.

• Oh look, while Sen. Biden agreed to appear on NBC for post-debate commentary, the Republicans declined the same invitation when it was offered to Gov. Palin. I can’t imagine why. Perhaps it’s because if Katie Couric can thrash you on a one to one, would you agree to open your mouth when you didn’t have to!?

And lastly, since this debate also dealt with the economy, I give you this simple, yet profound gem. (Thanks Nate!) Click to enlarge.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your excellent, unbiased viewpoints on the debate. Keep it up, sir!

8:55 AM  
Blogger Rhonda said...

McCain certainly seemed proud of the fact that he's never been elected Miss Congeniality. Doesn't seem like something to brag about to me.
As I learn more about McCain's character, especially his treatment of his first wife, my concern grows that he's still a callous, calculating, arrogant S.O.B.
His supporters accuse Obama of being inexperienced. It seems to me that experience comes with time (and yes, I agree that the White House is not the best place to learn), but what's more important is the person's fundamental character. Obama has also shown he has the wisdom to surround himself with experienced people - Biden, most notably - who also have good character.
To quote Martin Luther King: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
If McCain succumbs to one of his many ailments or just plain old age, do we really want someone as incredibly inexperienced as Palin (who is, apparently, despised by her own constituents) to lead this nation? Or if, God forbid, a racist with a weapon takes out Obama, do we want someone with the experience and savvy that Biden has? I wholeheartedly vote for the second option.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous David Yepsen said...

It was one of the most substantive debates in recent presidential campaign history and John McCain won it.

The Arizona senator was cool, informed and forceful in Friday’s first presidential debate of the general election campaign.

He repeatedly put Barack Obama on the defensive throughout the 90 minutes session. Obama did little to ease voter concerns that he’s experienced enough to handle foreign and defense policy. That was his number one task Friday night and he failed.

Instead he was often his old meandering self, unable to state a quick, forceful position. Polls taken in the coming days should show McCain holding on to his trump card in the race - the view that he’s better equipped to be commander in chief.

He condescendingly called Obama “naive” at a couple points in the debate, like an old master lecturing a young understudy. Obama never seemed able to attack back.

McCain’s victory came at a good time for him in the race. He has fumbled around for a week on questions involving the economy and the federal bailout of Wall Street. His vice presidential candidate has become a running joke of late night comedy shows. As a result, his poll numbers sagged.

The debate came against the backdrop of a close presidential election at a time when the country faces its greatest economic crisis since the 1930s and some of its greatest military threats since World War II. The nation’s adversaries - Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Taliban terrorists - seem to be on the ascendancy.

It has rattled Americans and between the two, McCain came off as the most reassuring. The crabby, grumbling, hotheaded McCain was nowhere to be seen. Instead we saw a calm, seasoned commander in chief . If you looked at your television and squinted slightly, you could better picture him addressing the country during a time of national crisis than Obama. Obama was often left flashing his smile and shaking his head at McCain.

McCain was expected to win on questions of foreign policy and national defense. That’s been his background. Where he routed Obama was on economic and spending questions as he repeatedly accusing Obama of using earmarks and wanting to spend too much.

When Obama tried his line about how McCain voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, McCain slapped back by ticking off a lit of issues where he has disagreed with Bush - like torture, conduct of the war in Iraq and federal spending and Guantanamo Bay. McCain never got rattled or flustered, he just constantly stayed focused on the attack.

The only good news for Obama is that any pain from this debate is likely to be short-lived. On Thursday, Sarah Palin meets Joe Biden in the only vice presidential debate. She can be painful to watch on television.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...


You're the only one who feels that way. Nearly every single poll taken since the debate took place, from official polling entities to numerous newspapers, gave the night to Obama. Even conservative pundits thought McCain performed poorly.

Clearly, however, this is a subjective exercise and it is always interesting how two people can watch the same event and come away with very different impressions based on their preconceived notions.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

I emailed a fiscal conservative Republican who I know and asked for his response to the cartoon. This is the response I got from him:

Reagan had a Democrat congress that would not cut spending; Bush I never was a fiscal conservative and he had a Democrat congress; Clinton had Republican congress that cut spending; Bush II is not a fiscal conservative; McCain is a fiscal conservative who has a history of fighting for spending cuts.


1:05 PM  

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