Monday, September 29, 2008

The Debate

I thought the debate Friday night was unexceptional. John McCain obviously knows the world stage very well. That alone is a refreshing change. But Obama clearly knows it, too, and I think he held his own on details and in tone. I didn't hear any major mistakes, though McCain displayed a dash of that impulsiveness that rightly scares some people when he basically ad-libbed a suggestion of a federal spending freeze. Except for the military, of course. Yikes.

As it's been widely noted, McCain's body language was not encouraging. I actually think the way in which he's most out of step with the country is that he seems to have real disdain for Obama. From my experience talking to people who likely won't vote for Obama, they still respect him and find him likable. Not McCain. When he repeatedly said that Obama "didn't understand," he was almost always just talking about differences of opinion. I think Obama "understands" just fine, and it would behoove McCain to move away from that tactic (!) and focus more on arguing for his case than belittling Obama. Didn't work for the Clintons.

If the polls are to be believed, and Obama has a small but noticeable lead, then Friday night should have helped him. He seemed presidential -- as he always does to me -- and McCain's substance was counterbalanced by his shifty, grumpy style, which I don't think undecideds will find palatable. But what do I know.

Palin remains a huge factor. I'm not sure if there's anyone out there still willing to defend the substance of her, but my word -- I do sympathize with her, until I remember that she could have said no when asked. It's true that politicians who are polarizing purely on the issues can galvanize their side. But comprehensive disasters are just disasters, and it's hard to see how she won't continue to significantly hurt the ticket. As much as I like Obama, and as much as I believe McCain is qualified (until I start thinking -- at all -- about the Palin pick), the fact is that either president is going to inherit a real mess in this country, on multiple levels. It's a serious time. Palin's not a serious figure.


Blogger Kraig said...

I don't know what's more astonishing to me---the bad advice that McCain has been getting from his advisors, or the fact that he's been seemingly eager to accept it. This is a winnable election for him, but he's basically blown it. Is there any doubt that a true-to-McCain campaign in which he picked a reasonable VP, treated his opponent with grace and respect, and generally acted as the McCain most moderates and independents had come to admire, would be winning this race? McCain lost this race (or at least IS losing) by turning people like me from simply preferring Obama to being outright AGAINST McCain. That's a big switch. It means lazy Democrats like myself won't be staying home this year---and there are a lot of lazy Democrats.

Prior to this year I had said it's a no-lose election. I had predicted McCain would be the nominee and, even if he won, would represent a significant improvement in the White House. While I still think he'd be an upgrade, I've gone from being totally certain of that to totally uncertain. I don't know who this McCain is, but he's managed to change my opinion of him to a negative one. McCain is going to end up doing the one thing I thought for sure he couldn't achieve---drive Democrats to the polls. That was my biggest ci concern...that McCain would be so palatable a choice as to diminish voter interest. If there's less at stake, there's less reason to vote (so the theory goes). McCain has succeeded in making it seem to Democrats that staying home is just not an option. He may have been right about the surge, but he was wrong about this strategy/tactic/approach/maneuver.

5:24 PM  
Blogger litelysalted said...

About Palin not saying no...

The thing that really frightens me the most is that not only did she not say no, but she didn't even think about saying no. When asked if she had to think about it, she said "she didn't even blink." What kind of person doesn't outweigh the very serious pros and cons before making a major decision like that? Not someone I'd want making the important decisions that affect myself and my country, that's for damn sure.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

To be fair--Palin no doubt had given the decision plenty of thought beforehand. Her being asked was not the first she had heard of the possibility, but your point is taken. I have less of a problem with her saying "yes" than I do, obviously, with McCain asking her at all. I don't doubt that she thinks she's capable of doing the job, but certainty in one's beliefs isn't as much of a virtue as she thinks.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous pf said...

Interesting point about McCain's seeming disdain for Obama. For me, the most telling aspect of McCain's body language (because for all I know the rest might be attributable to the war injury) was that unlike Obama, he couldn't make eye contact with his opponent. To me that made him seem nervous or, worse, afraid -- but disdain is another interesting interpretation. In either case, it seems to indicate some threshold beyond which McCain is unable to articulate a meaningful response, and whether it's because he's too nervous or too angry, who knows -- he just seems stymied. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Makes him seem like a mere politician, unable to think beyond Us and Them.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my own experience, if I dislike someone -- I can barely bring myself to look at them and if I'm afraid of them -- I watch them very, very closely.

Obama was gracious throughout. A statesman.
His campaign is moving ahead like a Ship of State.

4:32 PM  

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