Obama-McCain: Round One

Some observations after the first McCain-Obama debate:

  • What has happened to John McCain in the last 8 years? Back then, he was exciting and bold. Today he just seems tired and a bit too eager to be President.
  • Obama really needs to stop stammering. I find it distracting.
  • During the Democratic primaries, I didn’t like Hillary Clinton’s condescending tone. Ultimately her personality caused me to gravitate toward the less skilled and a tad vacuous (policy-wise) Obama. However, watching tonight’s debate I couldn’t help but think that if Hillary were the Democratic candidate, she would have hammered McCain into the ground.
  • One of the reasons I’m biased toward the Obama camp is that I support his style of “debate”. It’s professorial, what one commenter called “intellectual generosity”. In a professorial exchange, you acknowledge your opponents positives and seek middle ground. Obama said “John is right” several times in an attempt to bridge the gap. McCain, on the other hand, comes from the confrontational school of debate, wherein you never give any ground to your opponent. I don’t know which is best, only that I find the former a tad more civilized.
  • When both candidates were asked, “What is the lesson of Iraq?” I was screaming for Obama to answer, “The lesson of Iraq is that we did not learn the lesson of Vietnam.”
  • I’m so tired of politicians listing their passport visa stamps as foreign policy credentials. They all do it. In Canada, during one Parliamentary exchange, all the top leaders from all parties made it a point to slip in that they had been to Afghanistan. Tonight, McCain mentioned his trips abroad many, many times. Well, lots of people go to Paris, but how many can negotiate a trade deal with France? Politicians travel all the time; the trips are managed and protected. I really wonder what insights it actually offers them. I trust the well schooled book-reader to know a place better than any frivolous political tourist on a stage-managed visit.
  • When McCain suggested that he would build a sort of league of democracies, I thought Obama should have answered, “Great idea! When I’m President I will make sure you get to head up that project!”
  • To be fair, McCain appeared to be much better versed on the details of American foreign policy, while Obama floundered on those points, looking as if he had lost his cheat sheets. But I don’t think the details are what this election is about. Rather, it’s about vision and values. Obama nailed it when he said something to the effect that we will have less money next year, not enough to do everything he wants to do, so we will have to make choices and priorities, and they way we do that is by being clear on our values.
  • I couldn’t believe McCain brought up his POW experience at least twice that I counted. Give it a rest already! I also couldn’t believe that he referred to himself as a maverick; just because you say it doesn’t make it so. But I was relieved to see the CNN live polling reveal that viewers across all political stripes responded very poorly to both instances.
  • There were two memorable moments for me. The first was when, as they were battling to squeeze in one more point, Obama smiled his charming smile and said, “that’s enough; I think you want to ask us another question, Tim.” At the same moment, McCain looked like he was going to burst a blood vessel.
  • The second –and best– memorable moment was when John McCain finished his cloying, manipulative story about the bracelet given to him by a military family, Obama gave that smile again and said, “John, I’m also wearing a bracelet….”
  • Lastly, I want to comment on how annoying it is that the networks cut from the end of the debate to a place they usually call “Spin Alley”, where each party’s communications people lie through their teeth about their guy’s performance. Why do we need to see this? Their comments are predictable and valueless.

Obviously, I scored this contest resoundingly for Obama. But I’m a partisan, so take that for what it’s worth.

Now on to the joyful slaughter that will be Biden vs Palin!