Obama: Outclassed, underinformed, über defensive
Not having TV (by choice) I’ve had to rely on the radio for this debate–the feed was about a minute off real time and the break up was slightly annoying, so I chose to forego that as well. It was a bit of a disadvantage since I’m a very visual person, but I was trying to pay close attention for audible squirms, and Obama provided me with many.
First of all, as Ed Morrissey points out below, what’s with this “John” business? Senator McCain is many years Obama’s senior in age as well as experience and the reference by first name really put me off. I am aware this doesn’t matter to some people who don’t believe being an elder can actually mean something, so I will grant that and move on.
Next, Obama was at a clear disadvantage when it came to Georgia–which he wouldn’t be if knew what he was talking about…or maybe if he hadn’t spoken first. He spoke in very general terms about Aggressor Russia with phrases and logic any high schooler could have posted on a chat forum. (No offense to high schoolers.) I wasn’t really sure what to expect from McCain, but when the hits came they were sure and swift. Point after point he hammered into Obama’s holes and I could practically hear the sweat poring from the Obama pores. When the Illinois senator began to speak, he seemed to borrow some of his newfound knowledge to make some talking points. If he thinks he gained any momentum it’s because he used what McCain had said to do a quick study.
Obama also seemed in the attack mode with his frequent interruptions, which McCain was tactful enough to indulge. Perhaps he knew he didn’t need to win the “I can talk louder than you” game because his victory would come later when people talked about how insecure Obama was with all that jumping into McCain’s points. It’s a bit of a shame I couldn’t see what the facial expressions were that each wore, but I did hear how secure and authoritative were the words of McCain, whereas Obama–especially in the latter half of the debate–stammered relentlessly. Clearly he had lost his cool. It seemed perhaps most apparent when he couldn’t remember the name of the serviceman whose mother had given him a bracelet, and I believe this will not be forgotten by the American people. There simply are too many who have contact with the military, whether they be families and friends, or neighbors, civilian-military contacts or even passing encounters in stores, fairs, parent-teacher meetings and so on. Over a year ago a Fort Richardson soldier tore a patch right off his shoulder and gave it to my son (now five). Children remember lots, of course–parents complain about it all the time. But at that age they also prioritise their memories, just as we do. Nevertheless, even more than one year later my son still recalls the soldier’s name and rank, as well as many of the details about that night at the airport. And he is not a United States senator. In my estimation it is shameful, degrading and disrespectful that of all names Senator Obama could not remember off the top of his head, it would be this one.
I also was incensed that Barack Obama claimed to have all along been saying Iran is a danger. (Note the date references in upper left corner of video below.)
This is an appalling claim to make given not only what he said, but also what he didn’t say. He didn’t bother to show up at the New York rally to demonstrate against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said nothing about how Sarah Palin was so shamelessly disinvited because the left considers partisan politics more important that defending the United States against a madman who can stand on our own soil and plan our destruction. Melanie Morgan wrote about how Obama has campaign connections as well to a group who brags about having met with Ahmadinejad, thinking they are actually achieving somethings besides putting this country at risk.
“Obama recently put his seal of approval on Evans’ attempt to storm the stage during the acceptance speech of Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska when he welcomed her to his two Hollywood fundraisers last week, the exclusive $28,500 per person event and the $2500 per person event Barbra Streisand sang at the same evening.”
I’m sure others will have many more things to say about this than I did, and I await them all. Now on to Debate # 1 wrap up.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the presidential debate tonight, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have had to fly more than they expected in the last couple of days, and neither got a chance to focus on preparation, at least not to the extent they planned. I figured we’d see at least one major gaffe or breakdown from one of the candidates, and honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it.
However, I think both men did better than I expected. Neither seemed to show any effects from the hectic pace of the past week, and both appeared ready and relaxed at the start of tonight’s debate. I’d also include Jim Lehrer in that description, even though he had to rewrite part of his script to accommodate the economic crisis. Lehrer gave the debate a light touch as moderator, allowing the candidates plenty of space to talk and encouraging dialogue rather than speechmaking. It was perhaps one of the best presidential debates I’ve seen in this cycle, maybe the best.
With that said, McCain clearly got the best of Obama tonight. After a shaky couple of minutes to start the first question, McCain jabbed at Obama all night long — and he got Obama obviously flustered. While McCain kept his equanimity and never raised his tone or pitch, Obama got visibly upset, his voice pitched higher when responding to McCain, and Obama interrupted more. Obama also kept calling McCain “John” while McCain used the more proper “Senator Obama”, a difference that grated as the evening wore on.
Substantially, McCain also bested Obama on both economics and foreign policy. On the former, it was most apparent when Lehrer asked both candidates what they would cut as President after the bailout package passes. Obama could not bring himself to commit to one single cut, and instead talked about all of the funding he wanted to create for pet programs. McCain noted that he has long championed spending reductions and proposed a spending freeze on all but the most vital programs. When challenged on this point, Obama refused to say whether he would accept a freeze.
I did have a moment of frustration with McCain on the first question, a round I think Obama won. He never challenged Obama’s assumptions that the current credit crisis came from too little regulation. I kept expecting McCain to talk about the disaster of the Community Reinvestment Act, and the mandates from Congress that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac encourage bad lending by buying up bad paper. Instead, he tried to out-populist Obama, and Obama sounds more authentic as a populist.
On foreign policy, Obama did better than expected, but still fell short. I think his response on the decision to go into Iraq was quite good (even if I disagree with it), but he kept trying to argue that he didn’t demand a precipitous withdrawal in 2007 when the record clearly shows he did — and he beat Hillary to death with it in the primaries. McCain drew blood when he pointed out that for all of Obama’s talk about the priority of Afghanistan, he never once bothered to visit that front until last July, even though his Senate subcommittee has jurisdiction on NATO issues. Obama spluttered in response but never did explain why such an important theater wasn’t worth a single visit from him.
On Georgia, Russia, and eastern Europe, McCain proved himself the master of detailed foreign-policy thinking. While Obama talked briefly about the potential for NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine and pledged to “rebuild Georgia’s economy”, McCain explained the geopolitical realities of the entire region, and Russia’s intentions for it.
If Obama expected the old man to be too tired to debate properly, he is surely disappointed tonight. McCain kept Obama on defense all night long, made Obama lose his composure, and maintained his own in a very presidential performance. This one is a clear win for McCain.