September 26, 2008

Debate number one

Well, the phony baloney suspense over whether John McCain would be able to run away from his first debate is over. Of course it turns out it was all a sham to begin with.

Here's the place to share your views on the debate, the ridiculous stunts leading up to it, and your reaction afterwards. (or during.)

Afterwards, what did you think were some of the moments which stuck out and what did they suggest to you?


At 9/26/2008 10:29 PM, Anonymous Tennessee Jim said...

John McCain was an adult who can lead the country. Obama seemed like a pitiful student agreeing with all his points. I suppose Euro-Socialism will have to wait until Hillary runs in 2012.

At 9/26/2008 11:18 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

Both had their strong and weak moments. Obama took the cake with his economic policies. McCain semed more confident speaking about foreign policy (again, the "experience" issue). And IMO Johnny Mac grabbed the brass ring when he said, "The next president isn't going to have to deal with why we're in Iraq."

But all in all - and I'm really trying to be objective here - I think Obama had the edge on McCain. His demeanor was presidental and statesmanlike, his replies describing what particular policies he'd enact rather than just saying "We need to do something about..." and then dropping the ball.

McCain's been around long enough to be able to hold his own by using his folksy manner. But in the end, he was still toeing the party policies he keeps saying he's in favor of changing. Overall, McCain kept going back to the past, whereas Obama primarily talked about the future.

At 9/27/2008 5:51 AM, Anonymous sueshedap;puhleeze said...

Rather than reiterate what nooncat said as I agree on most of his points made, I'll add my take.

John McCain's folksy anectdotes with softened voice & face then stilted segue into ripping Obama became tiresome as he kept repeating himself on these rips. His face really showed a lot of disdain; very snarly, especially in his eyes. Couldn't quite "get" the request from Jim to 'look' at Obama while he answered. This lack of presense of mind to try to switch gears from campaign robot-like phrasing to actually carrying on a one-on-one debate was very telling of McCain. He also tip-toed on the edge of losing it about 2/3rds of the way through.

Obama at first was a bit stiff when Jim threw in the 'look at him' request, but got much more relaxed and it seemed to flow from him more naturally to try to engage McCain....who just would not acknowledge Obama eye to eye. (except for those flashing sneers)

Showed me that Obama knew his stuff which caused his confidant demeanor. Too bad he was gracious enough to point out the areas he agreed with McCain because Guilliani later jumped on this and as usual turned it into a head-shaking, mock incredulousness...
These comments from Rudy were disengenuous and mean-spirited. (no big surprise there)

Anyway I think Obama nailed it and it reinforced my opinion of both. Next one ought to be really interesting.

At 9/27/2008 7:14 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I myself was nearly tearing my hair out and screaming at the TV because of all the times McCain would open a whole bigger than a bus for Obama to make a fool out of him, and Obama would just STAND THERE or ignore it.

People want a strong leader, not freaking GHANDI.... didn't Obama get the memo?

Right out of the chute I was going nuts that Obama began his response to the first two questions with, "Senator McCain is absolutely right.." or some variation of that, and then continued to do so, some said as many as 11 times. Horrible!

I know it was evidence of his style of trying to find common ground, etc., but YOU DON'T DO THAT in a debate, most especially when you're battling an image as someone who's meek and inexperienced. Essentially endorseing your opponent doesn't exactly project an image of strength, at least to the imaginary white middle class guy that they say Obama has such trouble connecting with.

I took 4 pages of notes, and filled them with examples of McCain essentially kicking Obama's ass, not honestly, and not if you actually paid attention to what was said or knew the score.... but simply on emotional first impressions.

Watching the debate and putting myself in the position of a center-right "independent", I think McCain cleaned Obama's clock.

Instead of the flustered, erratic McCain we've seen on the stump, he was solid as a rock, in command of his facts (even though he mispronounced the new leader of Pakistan's name and got other facts wrong, the average Joe didn't know and likely doesn't care.) and much more "macho" and frankly, a lot more natural and exhibited way more righteous emotion and anger.

Obama? The guy everyone said going in was too aloof, too cerebral, too professorial?

He was aloof, cerebral, professorial, and at times, incredibly boring.

Wordy, verbose, complex sentences and trying to cram so much past history into his explanations that it was like the rap on Gore, he was like the smart kid in class trying to demonstrate how much he knew.

But the average Joe goes to SLEEP with this stuff. And Obama's endless string of "uhhhh's" and "ahhhhh's" and his habit of pronouncing the word "to" as "tuh", all became grating.

It was Dukakis all over again.

Did I mention I was freaking out?

And not only was Obama overly deferential and respectful of McCain, when McCain's utter disrespect and distain for Obama was fairly dripping off the stage, but when McCain would tell a whopper, making claims that Obama could have turned around and made a fool out of McCain, Obama instead would either briefly respond and gloss over the strongest response, and then go immediately into some long-winded, stammering exposition about stuff that only a policy wonk could enjoy.

Example: McCain doing the creepy lowered voice overly dramatic BS that Sue noted, talking about how he loves the vets, he knows the vets, the vets love him, and he'll always "take care" of the vets he loves so much.

BULL!! Even before McCain was through with this crap, I was excited because I KNEW that he'd just teed up Obama to knock it out of the park.

Several Vet groups, including the Disabled American Veterans, have rated McCain horribly for his record on vet issues.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Vets organization gave McCain a D on vet issues, Obama a B.

The D.A.V. rated McCain 20%, Obama 80%. That's a BIG difference.

AND, there's one simple and quick and devastating fact that would have taken Obama all of about 7 seconds to say.

McCain opposed the new G.I. Bill. Ba-boom!

This would be good!

They went to Obama. NOTHING. Not one word about McCain's dismal record on vet issues. Not a peep.

He just let McCain's cynical emotional sappy profession of his abiding love and support of all vets to stand without a peep of contradiction. ARRRRRGH!!!

And that's just ONE example.

McCain hammered and hammered the "Sen. Obama doesn't understand..." device, reinforcing his desired impression that Obama is "risky" inexperienced and unprepared.

Obama? Nothing. No obvious theme was apparent, though they supposedly wanted to emphasis a few. The middle class, McCain's ties to Bush, and demonstrating Obama's grasp of foreign policy knowledge.

Obama left a TON of stuff about how the middle class have been abused during the Bush era on the table. Barely mentioned it. So much for connnecting with Joe Sixpack.

He mentioned Bush and McCain's agreement with him, but it's been said so many times already that it seemed flat.

And his demonstration of knowledge about foreign policy issues was great. Only problem is that people tune out when they hear a guy reciting tangled policy wonk stuff and trying to drop names and words to show his braininess just loses the people he's supposed to be trying to reach.

I realize I'm a bit overwrought, but I REALLY wanted Obama to put McCain away last night. And he certainly could have.

But McCain, to his credit, was much, much, much more solid and prepared than I ever imagined, and Obama, bless him, still wouldn't rise to the occasion and tear the hide off of McCain.

Not only that, Obama passively allowed McCain to dictate the direction of nearly the entire debate, getting bogged down for an incredible length of time on earmarks and spending cuts. It was maddening! McCain led Obama around that stage by the nose nearly the entire night.

It was as though they told him that whatever he did, don't dare risk coming off as anything less than respectful to McCain.

Screw that! We all saw just how "respectful" McCain was of Obama.

Set aside whether it's the right thing to do. Set aside whether Obama is clearly the more mature candidate in every way but years. Set aside the fact that Obama's temperment is far superior to McCain's.

And put yourself in the shoes of some guy in Black Furnace, PA who's sitting on his couch with a crocheted afghan over it and watching the tube to see what the hell these fellas are about.

Who do you think appealed more to him?

Hint: It wasn't Obama.

And those are the voters which will decide this contest.

I recorded the before and after coverage on both MSNBC and CNN and watched the debate on PBS.

I ended up watching it all about 4 hours behind live TV.

When the debate was over, I was certain that the immediate reaction would be that McCain had mopped the floor with Obama.

I've been amazed, surprised, and greatly relieved to see that the immediate reaction, even by the conservative pundits, has been that Obama did quite well, and in general, they call it a draw or slightly give the edge to Obama.

I was even more pleased, and stunned, to see instant polls showing undecided viewers to have considered Obama the winner by a wide margin, and several other instant polls which all showed viewers thinking Obama came out ahead.

So maybe all my frustration and concern was overblown. I sure hope so.

And let's face it. It was really, REALLY creepy and weird that McCain refused to even acknowledge that Obama even EXISTED the entire night, refusing to even glance at Obama the entire night, and talking over Obama as if he didn't even hear him.

It was truly, and deeply, bizarre.

Put on your psych hat. Why do you think that was?

I think it was so psych out both McCain (to get him in fighting mode) AND Obama (to rattle him).

But I also consider that it could have been that McCain was so full of boiling rage that he feared that if he looked at Obama, he would lose it and say something crazy.

At 9/27/2008 10:04 AM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I am going to admit it when I turn out to be wrong. And I was wrong in a previous post where I predicted that the debate "format" plays to McCain's strength and not Obama's and that McCain would win.

After the first half of the debate, I thought that McCain had it right the first time - he'd have been better off to skip it and stay in Washington!

How many times to do we have to hear McCain's tired old one-liner about the "Black Bear DNA study, was it a paternity issue?" etc. Maybe I am being too critical of my own candidate. I don't think he prepped for this debate too well. His performance did not live up to my expectations.
It is uphill from here.

Sure, McCain had some good moments in the debate, in talking about Pakistan and Russia. But it was too late by then. I don't think McCain really got his footing until the second half. I was waiting to see what Dick Morris said and now that I read Dick's analysis I do agree.

As much as I hate to admit this: Obama looked presidential and he held his own on foreign policy.
Now I am not voting for him and I don't like how Obama comes across (to me) as arrogant. But I will admit, begrudgingly, Obama presented himself better on camera than my guy did. Also I can tell when McCain gets annoyed because he gets that "grimace" and I could tell that Obama was getting under his skin.

I have watched these debates for years and I think that basically, often people see what they want to see.

Dope, your post surprises me. Just the opposite of the raving review I thought you would give Obama. Very interesting. It was a PLUS that Obama stayed cool and collected. Look, Obama could not just come out there and fly off the handle! Because there are time constraints and also if he were to be too aggressive it would turn off middle America, to whom Obama is still a question mark. He couldn't just come out there and flip out and go for the throat -it would confirm people's fears that he was not ready. Being professorial and "charming" is Obama's nature. Those are the qualities that will sell Obama to the general public. If you want an angry Leftist pit bull, you got the wrong guy.

At 9/28/2008 7:16 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I realize that Obama, as a black guy, has to come across as the least pissed off black guy in history. He simply can't afford to appear "angry" about much of anything or they'll tar him as some radical black militant.

I realize that he had to remain cool... BUT.. I still thought that his pretty flat tone and demeanor was just too .. well... boring, to really capture the emotion of any undecided voters.

One small and inconsequential example is when he was laying out his views on how Afghanistan was the true center of the "war on terror" and what he'd do there. He went on at length, which is always dangerous in the land of people with 2 second attention spans, but he even managed to mention the problem of poppy production.

Sure, that's a very important issue in that region, seeing as southern Afghanistan pretty much produces the world supply of poppys for the production of heroin and the heroin trade essentially funds al queda and the Taliban. Nothing wrong with his view, but does Joe Sixpack need to hear about it, especially after an already long-winded and flat recitation of about 7 things Obama wants to do?

And yes, he was trying to demonstrate his breadth of knowledge and ability to handle foreign affairs, so I guess that was why he seemed to go on in such detail.

And maybe it seemed tedious to me because I never have had any doubts that he knew all this stuff. I've known it for ages.

But I guess to people who were laboring under the ridiculous notions put out by the Republicans, making him out to be some nit-wit like Palin who is a foreign policy idiot, then I guess hearing him going on about this stuff would be reassuring.

Thursday night will certainly be, shall we say, interesting, based on Palin's performance with Couric recently.

I wonder if I'll be able to actually look at the TV or will be so embarassed for her that I can't bear to watch.

At 9/28/2008 9:42 AM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I think it is good when Obama goes into wonkish detail and policy minutiae. It is when he is at his best. In doing so, it reassures all the millions of people who think he lacks substance.

I was not impressed with McCain's performance. Although some gave McCain higher marks than did. As usual, it makes me wonder: "what debate were they watching?" I agree with Dick Morris; McCain could not afford a lackluster debate. It will make it hard to catch up now.

And wow! All these angry liberals who think Obama wasn't aggressive enough? If that is what they want then I have a suggestion. It's called Cynthia McKinney for President!

The visual aspect of the debates is important. It's not what you say but how you look saying it. That is why I think Sarah Palin will do surprisingly well. Why? Is it because she is attractive? You're damn right! Don't sell her short. She is no fool. Now sure Biden is a giant in foreign policy and experience, she's not a match for his experience. But all Sarah has to do is just get through it okay it and look confident and not do any damage and she wins.
(And its possible that Biden makes a gaffe or gets too patronizing or long winded)

As Obama's success has proven, looks and charm are important, and experience less so.

At 9/29/2008 7:24 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm glad to hear your views on the first debate.

I know that McCain utterly mangled Obama's policy positions (the constant lying about his tax plan, etc.) and often got things just plain wrong. But then again, as I said, many voters watching wouldn't know that, so ......

And as you said, visuals and manner do count.

That's the lens I was watching the debate through, which is why I thought Obama fell so far short.

Sure, he carried himself well, looked fine (though some say he looked darker for some reason).

He came across as dignified and civil.

But I'm thinking that the redneck or independent falls for the macho routine. After all, they voted for Bush TWICE and fell for that crap.

So I was hoping Obama might borrow some of McCain's unthinking certitude and make some bold, if not thoughtful, statements. (I will defeat evil. or something stupid like that.

I was watching Obama bearing in mind that many have tried to paint him as too "elite" "aloof" "intellectual".
So I was really freaking out when he, indeed, in many sections of the debate, came across as "aloof" and "intellectual". No passion, no fire.

It freaked me out because it seemed as though he was playing into the very stereotype the R's have set up for him.

McCain on the other hand, leaned forward, on several occasions he appeared to really feel passionately about what he was talking about. He showed great committment, and whether it was all an act, it still came across that way.

I was afraid because as shown by Bush, people seem to prefer someone who shows clear beliefs, and the willingness to fight for them, EVEN IF THE VOTER DOESN'T AGREE WITH THEM.

They do NOT like squishy, wishy-washy "on the one hand, on the other hand" type of candidates.

In that respect, McCain spoke in absolutes, and so did Obama, but you'd never really know it, because his delivery was so choppy and flat and relatively bloodless, that what he as actually saying kind of vaporized.

Like you being tough on McCain, I think I'm extra rough on Obama because of a few factors.

1. I really really wanted him to just make McCain look pathetic.

McCain was coming off a week where people were truly starting to be skeptical as to whether he would be beat in a landslide. Everything seemed utterly in chaos in his campaign, and his press was horrible.

Obama, if he was smart and relaxed and was able to think on the fly and take advantage of opportunities handed him by the financial crisis and the many McCain gaffes, could really have essentially ENDED the campaign right there in Oxford.

It could have been all over.

But as I watched, I realized that this just wasn't going to happen.

Time and time and time again, Obama either didn't see, or choose not to take advantage of golden opportunities to go for McCain's jugular. It was maddening!

Then all the "John's absolutely right" stuff. ARRRGH!

And McCain truly dictated the flow and direction of the debate. Obama seemed to be responding too much of the time, playing defence when he should have had McCain backed up on the ropes nearly all night. (he certainly could have.)

So, McCain was coming in from a campaign in chaos, after gaffe after gaffe after gaffe, and he ended up being steady and resolute and didn't do anything utterly foolish.

Obama was coming in riding a wave of rising poll numbers showing Americans trusted him over McCain to deal with the financial crisis, and after McCain had handed him so many gaffes, lies, and just plain bad ideas that Obama could have batted him around like a cat playing with a mouse.

But no....

It was like Obama was playing for a tie. VERY frustrating to say the least.

I'm only very relieved that it appears that most people saw the debate differently, including you.

As to Palin....

I sincerely think that not even looks will save Ms. Sarah.

Certainly appearances matter in these debates, but not so much attractiveness.

As a matter of fact, being attractive may be a handicap to Palin.

Like blacks often have to perform twice as well to be given the same amount of credit or get the same positions as whites, attractive women often have to be twice as smart to be actually considered smart.

That's not explaining it that well, but hopefully you get my point.

Yes, her expectations are very low, which supposedly is a good thing for politicians. Some say if she shows up and finds the podium, she'll have won.

But truly, people are going to be watching EXTRA closely for any signs of her saying something stupid. And anything she says that could possibly be construed as evidence of lack of knowledge or shallowness or lack of intelligence will be magnified beyond belief.

Biden's the one almost guaranteed to say something downright bizarre and inexplicable, but I wonder if anyone will even hear what he says when they're all so focused laser like on Palin.

And ..... I don't care HOW bright Palin is, I don't care HOW must a sex symbol she may be for some conservatives, and I don't care how savvy a politician she may be, there's one thing that's a fact.

She can't fake depth, she can't fake knowledge, and she can't fake knowing how to handle herself on such a enormous stage.

It's truly like taking a stand-out high school football player and tossing him in as the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl.

And when she makes an utter fool out of herself, it won't be Palin who's to blame.

It will clearly by McCain's fault for having impulsively and recklessly picked someone who is in no way prepared to be a vice presidential candidate.

And it's McCain who should get the blame.

At 9/29/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

On a sidenote, I still miss Rudy. Rudy was giving a post-debate analysis and I thought,"here is a guy who really had substance AND who could really get out there and throw punches." Obama should be glad that he wasn't up there debating Obama because Rudy woulda beat Obama like a rented mule. Of course all of this is a moot point now.

I agree with your observation that somebody who is "wishy washy" just doesn't play. And for good reason. This country needs an FDR or a Churchill right now and I didn't see him up there.

At 9/30/2008 9:41 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm sorry, but Rudy "Noun and verb and 9-11" Giuliani is not the great white hope. I think he's pretty much washed up even within his own party.

I just heard a gang of pundits yesterday discussing the growing number of calls from Republicans for Palin to get the hell off the ticket and they argued that then who would McCain pick? Giuliani?

The idea was laughable to them, as if it would be worse than Palin.


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