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These Presidential debates are amazing things. Beforehand, the campaigns put out ridiculous statements aggrandizing the other guy, and minimizing expectations for their guy. Regardless of who actually did the best job, afterwards the spinners take to the town, trying to convince everyone that either their guy scored a knock-out punch, or the format was biased against them. (Example here.) And when it’s all said and done, every viewer perceives the event through the reality filtering lens of his own political stripe.
A quick scan of the blogosphere sees Right-wing sites, like the Western Standard, saying things like: “Every time [Obama] talks, he reminds me of a smooth, condescending ‘expert’ coming down to the level of the not-as-smart folks he’s trying to explain the world to. I can’t get past his presentation style which reeks of phony to me.”
Meanwhile, Democratic sites, like Daily Kos, report that “McCain was ridiculously bad all night.”
My take? McCain was ridiculously bad all night. I think he read the audience all wrong. Today, for the first time in a long time, Americans seem to have lost their sense of humour. Their economy is decaying and they’re not doing well in two wars. They want a smart guy to talk seriously to them, not to hand them platitudes and bromides. McCain kept handing them platitudes and bromides, and sank to negatively portraying his adversary more frequently than did Obama; the crowd did not seem to enjoy that.
In one particularly head-slapping moment, Brokaw asked the candidates whether health care was a responsibility or a right. A more soft-ball question I could not imagine. Obama answered correctly; whether he believes it or not, the right answer is that every citizen has a right to be healthy. McCain answered it with foolhardy candour: that it’s a responsibility. Now, I get that he was trying to suggest that the government has a responsibility to offer health care, but that’s not the way it came across, and that’s certainly not the most salable message.
Obama’s policies were well explained. McCain’s were vague, and peppered with far too many “my friend” suffixes. I sensed that a lot of people –myself included– felt spoken down to. On that topic, the blogsophere will make much of the following quote from McCain, in which he referred to Obama as “that one“. It was the most glaring example of the disdain that was seething from McCain’s pores:
Intended or not, the phrase will ring with racist overtones for a lot of people. Hence the following:
Now, Obama voiced a number of policies that I soundly disagree with, particularly his bellicose foreign policies. I want to reiterate something I’ve blogged earlier. By Canadian standards, Barack Obama has more in common with Stephen Harper than he does with the platforms and beliefs of any other major federal leader in this country. But as the furthest-most Left voice in maintstream American federal politics at the moment, I gravitate toward his candidacy. Let us make no mistake, however: if/when Barack Obama becomes President, I expect to take great exception to many, many, many of his policies.
Tonight, Obama appeared relaxed, thoughtful and Presidential. McCain appeared frustrated, a tad exercised and maybe angry, but definitely desperate. To me, this evening was a resounding success for Barack Obama. But many things can happen between today and election day.
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