Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate Post-Mortem

If condescension, ill-disguised contempt, and a patronizing attitude toward his opponent were part of the scorecard of presidential debates, then one might say that McCain "won" last night's debate. Unfortunately for McCain, his rambling, bullying performance may have been red meat for the base but did not endear him to that strange breed of voters calling themselves "undecideds" and "independents." Several post-election flash polls seemed to bear this out, giving Obama a clear "win" on points. At the risk of giving the TV punditocracy too much credit for another election 2008 buzzword, e.g. "pivot," which is then repeated ad nauseum, there was no "gamechanger" in this debate. Which is not good news for McCain.

Senator Obama wasn't at his best; he could, and should have, landed more punches on McCain. On the other hand, Obama stayed "on message," displaying his usual impressive command of the issues, and treated McCain with a deference and respect that the old geezer clearly did not deserve. Not surprisingly, this gentlemanly quality of Obama's resonated well with the viewers. At the same time, McCain did not help himself by his refusal to look Obama in the eye. The voters who will decide this election, and who were probably turning their full attention to the election for the first time, do not like to see unneccessary displays of rudeness from their candidates, and style matters as much as substance to such voters.

Perhaps it's not in Obama's nature to be combative. His "brand" (to coin another silly buzzword) would be tarnished by excessive partisanship. One could argue that Obama is where he is today because he is a brilliant politician who has figured out that Americans want a nonpartisan, conciliatory, consensus-building approach from their president. This is Obama's strength. But it could have turned into a weakness had he allowed McCain to roll him. It didn't happen, but there are those of us who would like to see more combativeness from Obama, especially in these dire times, with so much on the line in this election.

Newsflash: It went almost unnoticed that the leader of the Republican Party admitted the United States tortures prisoners. "Never again will we torture prisoners," said McCain. Am I wrong, or is this the first time a Republican officeholder with access to intelligence reports has made this assertion? Would the candidate care to amplify his comment before a war crimes tribunal in the Hague? For one who lectured Obama on what a potential president should or should not say, John McCain certainly strayed off the Republican reservation, even if confirming the obvious.

1 comment:

PatEsposisto said...

I was checking out some Canadian friends' posts and they raised similar issues; particularly they didn't like a candidate who couldn't look his opponent (and co-worker) in the eye and whose international background ended up sounding like name-dropping more than anything.

McCain was like a robot repeating "freeze spending" and somehow relating everything back to his work toward controlling earmarking. Everything.

I hope you've hit on something here with Americans wanting a "nonpartisan, conciliatory, consensus-building approach from their president." Because in that, Obama seemed a winner. Though at the same time, yes, it could turn into a weakness if the push isn't there when it's needed. And it's needed.

I wondered what viewers thought about the notion of legitimizing enemies by sitting down to talks with them. A solution can never be found to a problem without knowing the initial, basic cause. Desperation is often behind violent actions. I'd rather ask my enemy questions than toss some bombs and hope the desperate need or fear that drove the violence was as isolated as my narrow target. It might go nowhere, but people want their voices heard; that's something we begin to understand when we first learn to speak.

And ha! Good point. I hadn't even thought of that. He did just admit to the tortures. Yes. Newsflash media folks out there!