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McCain/Obama: Minimally flaky/ Maximally pedestrian


 

Both debaters were amazingly weak on the economy. That was the most incoherent, evasive, somnambulent half-hour of presidential debating in my lifetime. Seriously. I do hope nobody on Obama’s campaign team ever works another day in politics, although if he wins we’ll be plagued with Axelrodian pedestrianism on the chat shows for the next two decades as atonement for all the fun Jim Carville has given us.

On foreign policy, McCain was on his best behaviour. I hope to dissect his answer on Pakistan, which was breathtaking in so many ways, as soon as there’s video. But he does represent a solid step up from Sarah Palin, and talking about judgement often sounds like having judgement, sort of, so I think he had a decent night.

I’m closer to Obama on the issues, but I was left shaking my head, yet again, at what a prosaic and timid figure he strikes. Not timid on some hawk-dove foreign-policy spectrum, but as an advocate for his own positions. On the ex-Warsaw Pact, he kept earnestly trying to show he’s as solid as McCain — when he should have, could have shown that McCain isn’t solid. I kept wanting to tag-team and send Bill Clinton in. Or, might as well say it, Hillary.


 
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McCain/Obama: Minimally flaky/ Maximally pedestrian

  1. So Obama looked…uh…French?

    …*wanders off*

  2. The clear winner was some apparent genius named Petraeus. Does he know how wonderful he is ?

  3. There’s already a poll out.

    Not a bad night for either. Considering it was based mostly on foreign policy and Obama was standing at the foot of the master, one might conclude that Obama had a decent night.

  4. Ah, but his CNN viewer response levels went sky-high when he affirmed his I’m-as-hawkish-as-the-other-guy position. He’s made walking that fine line between gung-ho-ism and feel-goodism into a fine art. He’s had no choice: Virginia and Michigan are just not going to vote for somebody who doesn’t talk tough on the world stage.

    Avoiding sounding shrill was the main aim tonight, I think. I forget who said that the thing middle America dreads most is an Angry Black Man, and obviously it’s an outrageously racist statement, but it’s true, and Obama must at all costs not seem too earnest about his liberalism.

    Methinks this was the setup for some serious McCain-walloping in the next debate.

  5. They were both too politically disciplined to go pessimistic/realistic on the economy. McCain, surprisingly, seemed a bit more forthcoming on the financial difficulties facing the US government, but neither were really addressing reality.

    Overall both seemed very competent, and as on-their-game as I’ve ever seen them, which made for bad television (had one or the other come apart it would have been much more interesting). I was probably more impressed with McCain just because my expectations were lower…

    p.s. What is McCain’s weakness on the ex-Warsaw Pact states? AFAIK he’s always been in favour of NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders.

  6. I have a special emoticon for debates like these.

    :|

  7. Totally unbiased commentary from one of their Senate colleagues:
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/220213.php

    Palin apparently commented on the debate as well:
    John McCain is going to prove his leadership. … But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping the – it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reigning in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity not as a competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

  8. Seriously. I do hope nobody on Obama’s campaign team ever works another day in politics.

    You cannot be serious.

    I understand lingering disappointment that the Hillary/Obama drama is over, but this is the most ridiculous line I’ve read on this site in weeks. And I’ve read Megapundit.

  9. “the thing middle America dreads most is an Angry Black Man, and obviously it’s an outrageously racist statement, but it’s true”

    Well, you know, middle America is outrageously racist. It’s true – right Jack???

  10. Well, not outrageously, Luke, which is why they can’t say that directly. But I do think that the so-called “Bradley Effect” will be a factor on election day, esp. in Michigan. What was your point exactly, young Skywalker?

  11. Did McCain actually say anything useful on foreign policy? He went over the past, over and over again, he name dropped, he tried the “manly” rough, tough persona….but what did he say?

    Perhaps it’s time to get rid of this I’m a tough guy stuff (Bush comes to mind) and have a thinker. Oh my God, not an educated man…couldn’t have that.

    Roosevelt was a thinker and had a disability…hmmm….maybe it’s time.

  12. I only caught snippets so I’ll withhold judgment until the next debate. Meanwhile, I can find out who won by going to various media outlets, which I have done. If the media outlet is left-lib, I’m told Obama won. If the media outlet leans right, I’m told McCain won.

  13. You cannot be serious.

    Of course not. Wells is never serious.

  14. Wells really has it in for Obama. He hates all his speeches, and thinks he’s run the worst campaign ever.

  15. The debate was largely a snooze-fest (Paul Wells opined, “So far Lehrer is winning big. The other two are OD’ing on Sominex.” How old IS Paul Wells?) so I watched only intermittently.

    Seemed to me that Obama was trying to play the patient young’un to McCain’s cranky old man. His smiling glances toward Jim Lehrer held the “humour the old guy and let him babble on, he’ll drop dead soon anyway” message.

    (BTW, I’m an old guy too, so don’t accuse me of being ageist.)

    This may have been accidental, but the effect it had on me at least, was to discount McCain’s rhetoric as ill-remembered speechifying from other mouths and bygone days.

  16. DR: Hey, a bizarre comment is a bizarre comment. Axelrod, Plouffe et al pulled off something near-miraculous this year; to be honest, I’d rate them far above Carville, if only because they took down Carville’s choice and her incredibly lopsided advantage.

    And if you look at the polls and reacts, Obama cleaned up during this thing.

  17. “And if you look at the polls and reacts, Obama cleaned up during this thing.”

    That statement emanating from an obamatron, a wise reader would do well do verify that for himself.

  18. Both candidates were mystifying, but what else is new?

    “Journalists” have let these people get away with this for far too long. It’s a little precious to complain about it now.

    Hopefully, someone on the next episode of Bill Moyer’s Journal will explain exactly what went on in that debate. It’s quite possible that both of them haven’t a clue what they’re doing, but that seems a rather impertinent thing to say.

  19. That statement emanating from an obamatron, a wise reader would do well do verify that for himself.

    “Obamatron.” Good cut ‘n paste, Jarrid.

  20. There’s an interesting article on HuffPo by an ex-Hilary staffer on analyzing debates:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judd-legum/how-to-figure-out-who-won_b_129605.html

    Main points:

    – What matters is the most memorable 2 or 3 sound bites, because people won’t remember much anyway.

    – Mistakes matter only if they reinforce previously-help opinions of the Candidate.

    – It’s a popularity contest.

    So who won last night? Hey, I thought Gore beat Bush in the 2000 debates, so what’s my opinion worth?

  21. Archangel: 42.

  22. But doesn’t look a day over 41. ;)

  23. Regardless of how the debates go, I still think that at the end of the day Americans will not vote in Obama for president. I will be genuinely surprised if they do.

    The Democrats keep putting forward presidential candidates who are too far left for the comfort zone of the American electorate, think Kerry Dukakis, Gore, Mondale. Obama is to the left of all of them. You have to go back to McGovern in ’72 to find such an “out there” leftist candidate.

    Why do Democrats keep doing that? I don’t know. It’s not as if they haven’t tasted success when they nominated a more centrist candidate, think Bill Clinton.

  24. Obama’s delivery was fine (though more stutters than the polished teleprompered speeches we’ve come to know).

    The problem was when it came to substance (on foreign policy – I’d say they were both dodging on the economy), McCain interlaced his responses with examples – often based on personal experience. Also McCain made a point of explaining the basis of his position.

    Obama on the other hand relied more on generalizations and rhetoric.

    McCain’s experience showed.

    So did Obama’s inexperience.

    I’d say it was a clear McCain victory.

    And judging from the number of pro-Obama sources that are gritting their teeth and calling it a “draw” I’d say I’m right.

  25. I expect that running for a president as a senator brings many complications to a debate. Both were able to spin the voting record of the other, given that bills in the sentate are often hopelessly “omnibus” in nature, forcing representatives to vote for things they don’t want, in the name of things they want.

    It seemed like neither of them expected the direct question regarding the impact of the bailout expense on their proposed agendas. Obama was outright evasive, and McCain’s reliance on draconian cuts may sound good to conservatives, but I’m guessing would never pass a democrat controlled house. That said, he at least had an answer of sorts.

    I’m guessing that both were deliberately low-key and relatively non-combative, given they were debating in the shadow of bailout package negotiations in Washington. Obama could have easily carved McCain a new one more than once, and I have trouble believing it wasn’t a deliberate choice not to.

  26. Please, kody. You’d call it a McCain victory if McCain promised middle class Americans he was going to foreclose on all of their homes, require them to put their daughters into prostitution, and then proceeded to skin a live kitten on stage.

    Your credibility is shot in these kinds of matters. As I suspect mine would be on the other side if I bothered to follow the US races.

  27. Paul Wells’ age according to the U.S. presidential candidates:

    “Our political differences, no matter how sharply they are debated, are really quite narrow in comparison to the remarkably durable national consensus on [Paul Wells’ age].”
    –John McCain

    “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress [and live to be as old as Paul Wells].”
    –Barack Obama

  28. I agree with Sean S about the economy questions. I didn’t think either candidate was all that great answering those questions but I thought McCain at least had a sense that his policies/funding would have to be changed now while I thought Obama was full speed ahead on his policies/funding on top of the $700 billion they are about to add to the national debt.

    As far as the foreign affair questions go, as long as McCain didn’t say something entirely crazy, he wins based on his experiences and a tendency of people to associate the repubs with strong national defence policies.

    I wonder about McCain calling his opponent Senator Obama, and rarely looking at him, while Obama kept calling him John and often agreeing with McCain’s ideas. I wonder what the advisers were going for when they suggested these strategies to their candidates.

  29. Obama strikes a timid figure because he is running for office in a country where many people believe he might be a socialist. To fault him for that is to be a concern troll.

  30. I’ve been thinking this over a bit more…

    You know what’s troubling about the debate last night? It was the strained drama of two men thinking more about how they would be perceived, than about putting forth ideas they believe in. It was the sense that neither knows what the hell to do about the economy, about the war, or about unifying their nation.

    Maybe that’s the same problem with our election: nobody really has a strong sense of how to address the issues of the day.

  31. Regardless of how the debates go, I still think that at the end of the day Canadians will not vote in Harper for Prime Minister. I will be genuinely surprised if they do.

    The Conservative keep putting forward leadership candidates who are too far right for the comfort zone of the American electorate, think Manning, Day. Harper is to the right of all of them. You have to go back to Sir Francis Bond Head in ‘37 to find such an “out there” rightist candidate.

    Why do Conservatives keep doing that? I don’t know. It’s not as if they haven’t tasted success when they nominated a more centrist candidate, think Brian Mulroney.

  32. Maybe that’s the same problem with our election…

    The only thing that’s the same between the US election and ours is the media.

  33. Again with the media. Here’s the deal, if the “media” start trying to drive the election dynamics by doggedly writing about issues that “really” matter, then they are accused of bias and elitism (telling the voters what they ought to be thinking about). Or if an issue happens to play to a particular party’s strengths, then the media is accused of subtly supporting that party, facts and reasoned analysis be damned.

    Also, the public votes with their purchasing power, and make it hard for media outlets to avoid reporting on skinny-dipping candidates and daily polls if they want to sell their product.

    Finally, the media can only report on what the candidates and parties are saying. So far, not a hell of a lot of substantive policy and ideas have been provided by the parties, as compared to the efforts put into taking pot-shots at each other and making sure they get their five-second sound-bite snipe on the evening news.

    Our media, and our goverment, are “us”. If we want things different or “better” from either domain, the responsiblity is ours to demand it.

  34. As I was said above, I will be genuinely surprised if Americans pick Obama for president given his far left pedigree. That’s why I’m not losing any sleep over the U.S. election although the race remains tight at this juncture.

    However, in the unlikely scenario that Obama wins, I’ll be truly mortified. Having a wet-behind-the-ears neophyte left-wing ideological President at a time of great economic upheaval, coupled with the complex international situation, with the Democrats in charge of both the Senate and the House of Representatives is a nightmare in the making.

  35. Seriously. I do hope nobody on Obama’s campaign team ever works another day in politics.

    This schtick of being hyper-critical of the impressive presidential candidates is getting old. Obama was very well-prepared, nailed all the important points, and polls show he impressed most viewers.

  36. I don’t generally accuse the media of bias (wich really requires rigorous examination to establish definitively). I accuse it of being…bad. So very, very bad. There are exceptions of course…such as the fine folks running these blogs.

    If we want things different or “better” from either domain, the responsiblity is ours to demand it.

    You can’t *demand* that the mass media become better. You can only make alternative choices.

  37. Jarrid

    I think if Obama wins, we are looking at repeat of Carter admin. And Palin will be back in four years to slay the marxist rabble rouser.

  38. Speaking of credibility,

    you’ll note, that as predicted by yours truly, Nanos has shown a liberal uptick and con dip on the Mondays for the past two weeks, followed by (again precisely as predicted by me) a rise leading to the weekend (as the weekend polling is filtered out for the Thursday and Saturday results).

    If the Libs don’t show an uptick this Monday (factoring in the trailing Fri to Sun), or a very limited one, we know the Cons are continuing to surge ahead unabated.

  39. you’ll note

    How can I note it? You never bring up polls. Nevah evah!

  40. Paul said “I’m closer to Obama on the issues

    Not surprising, but at least you’re honest. I look forward to some more truth telling in how you are also closer to Dion on the issues.

  41. Brian, if you’re going to wank, it’s nicer not to do it in somebody’s face.

  42. PW: Cannot disagree with your analysis of the debate.

    Both are amazingly weak on the economy. McCain is pulling stunts and Obama is throwing out cliches. Neither has a clue.

  43. I think I know what you will say about Pakistan, and the characterization of Pakistan as a “failed state”. If a military coup is all that is required for a failed state, then South America was a failed continent for 50 years.

    Obama could have nailed him on Pakistan, but Obama does not have the slightest clue, he probably does not even know where Pakistan is.

  44. “Obama could have nailed him on Pakistan, but Obama does not have the slightest clue, he probably does not even know where Pakistan is.”

    Don’t be absurd.

  45. Yeah really. Just because Sarah Palin doesn’t have the first clue where things are, such as for example South Africa, and Iraq, and some people can’t afford maps, such as for example, Putin rears his head…

  46. In spite of the pundit and post debate polling of who won, I also thought Obama missed many opportunities for direct body blows. Does he know how to throw a punch?

    As to weakness on economic policy, this was a foreign affairs debate, so that criticism is perhaps premature, not that I am expecting anything better next time around.

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