The Morning After: Debate I of the 2008 Pres. Election

Well, it certainly wasn’t a lovefest. I stayed strong and refused to play the debate drinking game, though temptations were strong, to put it mildly. I even took notes, though for some reason, my handwriting is almost illegible when I’ve written while not actually looking at the piece of paper.

Here’s my reaction.

The real loser of the debate was democracy. Debate and discussion are inherent to a healthy democracy and the Commission on Presidential Debates perpetrated a grave error by disallowing the presence of Ralph Nader and Bob Barr. The inclusion of those two, yes – serious, but fringe – candidates would have helped separate McCain and Obama from their talking points. More viewers probably would have tuned in knowing it wouldn’t just a grudge match between the two main candidates. It certainly, certainly would have been more interesting. My husband said there’s no way McCain could have taken Perot – but remember how condescending he was to Ron Paul. We would have seen McCain’s golden smugness on display like peacock ready to hit it.

Beyond the democracy thing, I thought both Obama and McCain both did well. I know, that’s such a vanilla thing to say. Obviously, if you prefer one over the other, you most likely think your guy took home the trophy. It is a little telling that HuffPo’s headlines all shout about an Obama victory and Townhall’s headlines claim nothing of the sort for their man. I’m just saying… McCain will probably have to buy a cheap plastic trophy from the trophy store while Obama is taking a three-tiered monstrosity back to campaign headquarters.

Why, you ask, you silly?

Not because Obama blew McCain out of the water, that’s for sure. After McCain’s non-suspending campaign suspension and the withering of a bailout deal after his arrival in D.C., McCain needed to hit a homerun last night. Anything less was a victory for Obama because, as Lawrence O’Donnell said last night, if there is a leader in the polls and no clear victory in the debate – the poll leader wins the debate. And there was no knocker-outer, clear victor.

Obama presented a clear comprehension of the topics discussed – despite McCain’s pitiful, “He doesn’t understand” mantra. If the viewer demographic is the informed voter – and based on a personal poll of people I know, it is – it was quite easy to see through McCain’s little tactic.

While everyone thought Obama was slow in the beginning and picked it up toward the end, I disagree. Based not on presentation of facts, but simply speaking manner, Obama was much more dominant in the beginning while McCain came in in the second half to own the discussion. While some said McCain appeared testy at the end, he was more aggressive and stronger. Obama was able to get in some good interruptions in the beginning and, at the end, when he tried to cut in, it was painful. There were so many ums, and johns, and that’s not trues. If he has spoken louder and shut McCain down, that would have looked brilliant. But he’s a measured and calm person and that’s just not party of his schtick.

In fact, there were so many easy openings that Obama just let float by while those of us at home were shouting at the screen. When McCain said, “That’s just a fact,” how easy would it have been for Obama to comment on the rampant “untruthiness” of McCain’s campaign. Would have been fish in a barrel, but I know…It’s not Obama’s style.

McCain’s refusal to look at Obama was pitiful. He really should grow up. If he was trying to appear better than Obama, it didn’t work. How fierce would McCain’s stares at Obama have been? How effective? Instead he seemed as if he wanted to avoid the whole thing, stick to his speech talking points, repeat lines that have worked in the past but now ring hollow. He looked more like Obama was breaking up with him than debating him.

The lines and phrases that stood out to me were:

Obama calling John McCain “Tom” by accident. haha. ouch!

Obama: “Orgy of spending” (eeewww)

Obama: “No soldier dies in vain.” (good rebuttal to McCain’s telling for the millionth time the story of some mother asking McCain not to let her son have died in vain and with the Iraq war.)

It was unsufferably annoying in the beginning when Jim Lehrer kept trying to get them to talk to each other. They’re grown men, they’ll talk to each other if they want to. Boo on Jim for that. These are not action figures or puppets on a little stage for you to manipulate. And maybe if you had included Nader and Barr, you would have gotten the direct action you were looking for.

Well, it wasn’t all the fireworks I was hoping to see. McCain uttered quite a few lies that he knows are lies, which was clear to those of us who follow politics. Obama wasn’t swinging hard enough to land a knockout, but that’s not his way and it seems to be working so far. Obama’s willingness to acknowledge when he agrees with McCain shows strength that people relate to and like and – more than that – it worked against Hillary.

Bob Shrum said we now know who the next president will be. Of course, he was John Kerry’s campaign manager. But I agree with him – hell, I even wrote “McCain’s Campaign Obituary” a couple months ago. This was McCain’s last, best hope to rewrite the narrative. It is signficant that the last two debates – and the ones that will stay on voters’ minds – are not in his area of strength as last night was.

Perhaps McCain has more stunts up his sleeve to try and change the game again. But after a few stunts, people start wising up. You hear me, Steve Schmidt? Sure, the polls vacillate, but this is Obama’s game. The majority of people agree with him on all the issues, the Republican brand is in tatters, Obama has lead one of the best, coherent and cohesive campaigns in recent history. I say this not to be naively overconfident, but looking at everyone’s positions on the field.

In the spirit of college football (go UT agaisnt ARK today!), McCain did nothing to move the ball last night and gave Obama the opening for the field goal. Debate I: Obama 3, McCain 0 (with lots of yardage).


6 Responses to “The Morning After: Debate I of the 2008 Pres. Election”

  1. 1 marg
    September 27, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    OK., you are a democrat!


    Obama was a disaster yesterday, calling McCain not by “McCain” BUT “Tim”, “Jim”, “Tom”– and John…
    McCain used the correct, “Senator Obama”.

    The polls are not of value especially if it comes from CNN, AND CBS’ 500 random undecideds.

    By-the-way: Not only was Obama disespectful in the way I mentioned, but he kept interrupting McCain with his “I” voted not to go into Irak; OK BARACK WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE KNOW THIS– maybe the ONLY TIME YOU MADE A GOOD CHOICE (NOT IN THE CHOICES OF YOUR PASTOR, YOUR MENTORS, FRIENDS– my favorite Bill AYERS). SO
    Irak a lucky quess for Obama– but the NEW president HAS TO DEAL WITH IRAK TODAY, IN THE NOW, as Senator McCain mentioned yesterday.

    Mistakes were made, and Obama was against Irak = OLD NEWS, WHO CARE!!!


    God Bless!

  2. September 28, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    i get what you are saying, marg – but i have to say that the ultimate disrespect is lying (not messing up someone’s name) and when McCain repeatedly says that Obama will raise taxes on the vast majority of Americans – that is the ultimate disrespect. Furthermore, Obama was showing familiarity with McCain by calling him John. They are colleagues. McCain was being disdainful – but that’s all beside the point.

    I agree that Obama’s voting against the war is old news, but so is McCain’s being a Maverick and being Miss Congeniality in the Senate. Those labels don’t even apply since he’s voted with Bush so much in the recent past, flipped on torture, immigration, taxes for the rich, the Religious Right and more. Also, the vote against the war works for Obama, so he’s going to milk that sucker all he can.

    Let’s talk about McCain’s friends. Charles Keating, his whole campaign is run by former Bushies (and, marge – you’re saying we have to look to the future. McCain’s whole campaign is Bush 2000), Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, John, Hagee, Jerry Falwell (before he died, but after calling him an agent of intolerance), Gordon Liddy and more. Bill Ayers and Obama are acquaintances and the relationship is a distraction by the Right so that you don’t talk about actual issues.

    Furthermore, McCain has largely involved in legislation keeping records of POWs left in Vietnam under wraps. We still have no idea why he has been such an obstructionist on this issue.

    Obama is well-respected around the world, doesn’t exist in a bubble of certitude, understands that the world is more and more interwoven and we cannot go on as the isolationist “might makes right” American or will never convince the international community, including Russia and China, to help us with Iran and other rogue nations. The generals in Iraq did not want the surge, only Bush and McCain did. So, McCain does not go to Iraq and listen to the people running the show like he claims. McCain continues to repeat the lie that the surge was responsible for the reduction in violence in Iraq – when it had much more to do with ethnic cleansing, Sunni payoffs by the Iraqi government, and new developments in classified strategic operations against insurgents.

    I would also suggest you learn more about the processes of the Illinois State Legislature before you decry Obama’s present votes. First of all they were 100 out of 4,000. Secondly, Obama wrote a number of the pieces of legislations he vote present on. There were strategic, logical reasons for these votes but of course they have been misrepresented by the right along with almost everything else they say to their voters about Obama.

    I’m not just voting on experience but judgement and character – which Palin and McCain are devoid of as is their campaign.

    Furthermore, I’m an Independent not a Democrat, but you can use the word Liberal to describe me if you like. I research issues and facts and records, I simply do not listen to propaganda presented by the right.

    AND I might vote Nader – I’m intensely upset by Obama’s FISA vote and his stance against gay marriage and support of faith-bases initiatives. I think he needed Jeremiah Wright to conduct his community organization work and then was loyal to him. I personally can’t stand Jeremiah Wright – or the Pat Robertson, John Hagee, James Dobson, Tony Perkins and all religious leaders who are politically active – including Billy Graham.

    I was simply giving my thoughts on the debate.

    Thanks for the discussion, though!

  3. 3 Marc
    September 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I can’t take seriously anyone who spells Iraq as Irak, even if it is just a phonetic misnomer.

    M, no drinking game?

    Finally, I know you, I and many other active Democrats wanted to blast McCain out of the water, but I think there was some real political capital in not doing so.

    Lemme explain.

    I have a number of friends working as Obama staffers or fellows who deal with voters day in and day out in a number of key swing states, and they really run into the Obama’s a Muslim, or Obama’s a Wright following America hater, or Obama’s a socialist quite a bit among the blue collar union demographic; people who’d otherwise vote democrat.

    With that said, an aggressive Obama beating up on the old POW McCain may have reinforced that image, whereas the coolheaded and calm Obama at the debate did a lot to dispel it.

  4. September 30, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    i getcha, marc, i really do. but i think this “undecided” voter demographic is going to be a much smaller factor in the election than the MSM claims. it’s the get-off-the-couch voters that matter.

    for the most part, people have already decided for whom them will vote. obama and mccain have to motivate the lazy american voter to get to the polls. whoever can convince more of their “decided” to get to the polls will claim the election.

    in 2004, most evangelicals supported bush, but it was the anti-gay marriage ban that got them off the couch and into the voting booth.

    attacking is not in obama’s character and he shouldn’t try to be something he’s not, because he will not do it well and it will be received poorly for that reason. but, i do think democrats want their champion, their attack dog and few democrats – who are more reasoned and tempered – can fill that role. i’ll do it!

  5. 5 Wasaff
    October 3, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Well if she was making an attempt at spelling Iraq phonetically, then it should have been “er-rock”… you know kind of like “er-ron” (Iran)… hate stupid people…

  6. 6 Marc
    October 3, 2008 at 11:29 am

    actually, it’d be ee-ron and ee-rock.

    this straight from the mouth of an iranian. not my mouth, an iranian one.

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