Friday, September 26, 2008

First presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain

He he. I saw Wolf Blitzer say on CNN post-debate (paraphrase), "We've been getting emails about why we interviewed Vice Presidential candidate Biden but not Sarah Palin. We tried to get Sarah Palin, we'd love to talk to Sarah Palin sometime... down the road... we did talk to Nicole Wallace, senior advisor to John McCain." Apparently Palin declined the invitation. Here's what she did instead.

Sarah and I watched the debate together. She was paying more attention when Jim Lehrer asked the candidates at the beginning of the debate not to talk to him, but address each other, so she noticed first when McCain didn't look at Obama. We're still not sure why McCain did that.

After that, I watched reasonably carefully, and I don't think McCain really looked at him until they shook hands after the debate was over. On a related note, Obama addressed McCain directly, calling him John and talking to him in the second person; McCain was all third person all the time.

Without belaboring the point, I got the feeling that McCain was not engaging. If you covered up Obama's side of the screen and edited McCain's segments together, it would look a bit like a speech. It would not look like give and take. Haven't we had enough of a President who does not listen?

I got another idea just now. McCain says "my friend/my friends" all the time when he is addressing people in public. Maybe if he'd said "my friend" to Obama it would've looked insincere and condescending, so they had to go as far away from the second person as possible.

Another thing I was kind of surprised to see was McCain being the angry old man. Was I the only one to think Grandpa Simpson when McCain started telling yet another story about how he'd visited a country, which makes him some kind of foreign policy genius? I failed to see the huge point of "I've been to Waziristan", beyond grandstanding. If it's really that important... would you pick a vice president who's never really traveled or been interested in these issues?

Famously, he also visited Iraq a year ago and said there "are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today". He spoke from experience. He had just walked through a neighborhood in Baghdad. Of course, he had a bulletproof vest, and he was escorted... by 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawk helicopters, and 2 Apache gunships. Anyone can just go to countries... but actually learning something with open eyes takes a little more effort.

Back to the main line, "I don't think John McCain understands" how he dated himself when he started bringing up Kissinger and how long he'd been around, and telling stories from the Reagan era... like bringing up SDI (!) on the missile defense issue. I caught it, but I doubt most of the country did. And I still missed the point, ie why he actually brought it up.

McCain came off as a get-off-my-lawn condescending old guy to me... I think that will not help his chances.

As for Obama, I thought he respected the format better than McCain. He wasn't always as firm as I would like in responding to McCain. He didn't quite bring up McCain's long record of financial services deregulation. Nor did he ask what victory and defeat mean in what is now, after all, not a war but an occupation of Iraq. But overall, a pretty solid performance, and that's probably all he needed.

Maybe I'll have some more deep thoughts later.


Travis said...

Proof that you get out of the debates what you want to get out of them. I thought McCain blew Obama away and succeeded at exposing his naivety when it comes to foreign relations.

I've listened to plenty of commentary on how the two addressed each other too and many feel that it was inappropriate for Obama to refer to McCain by his first name (it has never or rarely has happened in other presidential debates)

My opinion? McCain won hands down. Of course, that's what I wanted to happen.

Dan Lewis said...

You're right, Travis. It is definitely a tale of two debates. Democrats and Republicans supported their candidate. The tiebreaker, though, is the independents... they thought Obama won the debate. As for us, we can agree to disagree.

I remember McCain saying that Obama was naive and didn't understand several times, so I can see why you got that impression. But I didn't see any real argument or evidence that Obama was naive and didn't understand. Instead, we saw two relatively strong politicians on foreign policy.

Jim Lehrer asked them to address each other at the beginning of the debate, so I hardly think it was disrespectful for Obama to do so, and it made it really obvious that McCain refused to do so. We can speculate about their motives, but McCain did not play ball there.

I think the lasting impression from the debate will not necessarily be what was said. I think it will be about temperament, how each guy acted. And they certainly presented two very different pictures on those lines.

travis said...

Agreed. As for me? I think maybe it's time for a crotchety old man. Look where voting for the guy we'd most like to have a beer with got us.

As a side note, with all the turmoil in the economy, where will Obama get the funding for his entitlement programs? I think it's a legitimate question (and I'm not saying I disagree necessarily with his ideas - I love some of Obama's health care ideas, amongst other things).

travis said...

P.S. - I wish you lived closer so I could invite you over for the VP debate tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to a night of entertainment.

Dan Lewis said...

I wouldn't cast an extremely smart, well-informed guy like Barack Obama as the barfly of this election. President of the Harvard Law Review, lecturer in constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School for several years.

I don't want Obama to have a beer with me necessarily, although of the candidates on the table I probably identify with him the most.

I want him to be the next FDR. Not that he will, but he could.

You know that "more of the same" line Obama's campaign uses against John McCain? It may not apply in every detail, but it is a basic truth of the election. McCain is in basic agreement with the Bush Administration's war in Iraq, tax cuts, spending decisions, pro-life stance, oil drilling, etc.

He is also an impulsive, shoot-first-ask-questions-later candidate, as his campaign has demonstrated abundantly over the last month. That's the kind of president we want to avoid: the gut-feeling dude, the guy who says "Horse****" on national TV when his debating opponent gets under his skin. We want the collected, smart, cool-as-a-cucumber guy.

I too regret that we can't watch the VP debate together. I have trouble watching Palin interviews (the cringe thing), so I am anticipating a painful time...