Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain-Obama Debate: Quite Agreeable

Just got back from watching the first McCain-Obama debate on a friend's huge-screen HDTV. It started about an hour before Shabbat on Friday, so that was all I really heard of the two-hour event. I was in my pre-Shabbos cooking mode, frantically hoping all my oven-items would emerge before candle-lighting time, while listening on radio.

Hearing the debate added to my stress.

I entered our day of rest quite unsettled by the interchange I heard. It sounded to me, amid stove-timer beeps and last-minute phone calls and chopping and pan-rattling that Obama sounded knowledgeable and presidential--more than I'd expected. But I was willing to withhold judgment until I saw the guys onscreen, complete with body language and facial expressions.

Well, tonight I saw them up close in multi-pixel'd intimacy. I was in the company of others--two women, four men, who occasionally commented. But I was by far the most distressed and affected by the debate, sometimes unable to hold back from telling the faces on the screen, "You just said that!" or worse.

Talking points were obvious. Obama again hammered that the troubles of Wall Street must be addressed on Main Street by giving people all sorts of goodies. He knows the hot-buttons: high gas prices, mortgage pinch, envy of the eeeeevil CEOs and especially corporations. And he gets a double whammy by slamming the oil companies.

McCain started by echoing Obama's use of Main Street--a mistake, I thought--but then got to his own agenda, emphasizing his role in creating a bail-out package that both Democrats and Republicans can support. McCain repeated "the point is..." throughout his answers, as if to remind himself to stay on track, but neither guy, in my view, provided more than platitudes in their responses to solving the economic crisis. Obama kept blaming poor Bush for everything, and McCain smartly turned that around to imply Obama's whining and obsession with the past rather than initiative for the future.

Here's an example from Obama's response to how to deal with the financial crisis:

"The question, I think, that we have to ask ourselves is, how did we get into this situation in the first place? Two years ago, I warned that, because of the subprime lending mess, because of the lax regulation, that we were potentially going to have a problem and tried to stop some of the abuses in mortgages that were taking place at the time.
Last year, I wrote to the secretary of the Treasury to make sure that he understood the magnitude of this problem and to call on him to bring all the stakeholders together to try to deal with it."

Obama's implying he was important and involved in these issues for a long time, and a beacon of sanity "warning" people at that. Wow, the Secretary of the Treasury was stupid not to listen to the prophetic instruction of Barack Obama when he wrote last year!

Of course, McCain aces Obama in experience and involvement at every turn. And he didn't hesitate to mention it. Perhaps his best talking point recalled his long-time opposition to earmarks, noting Obama's support for them at the rate of "a million dollars for each day he's been in the Senate." Score.

Or, Spar--because Obama tried to make light of McCain's disdain for special funding. "Now, 18 billion is important, 300 billion is really important. And in his tax plan, you would have CEOs of Fortune 500 companies getting an average of $700,000 in reduced taxes, while leaving 100 million Americans out."

Those eeevil CEOs! Just because they earned that money is no reason they should KEEP it! Why, they should have to FIRE the cook and three gardeners and chauffeur! THAT will help the economy!

Both candidates want to make more jobs for people, and it appears both want to do it the same way. Obama: "What I do is I close corporate loopholes, stop providing tax cuts to corporations that are shipping jobs overseas so that we're giving tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States."

McCain: "Now, if you're a business person, and you can locate any place in the world, then, obviously, if you go to the country where it's 11 percent tax versus 35 percent, you're going to be able to create jobs, increase your business, make more investment, et cetera. I want to cut that business tax. I want to cut it so that businesses will remain in -- in the United States of America and create jobs."

In fact, Obama said "You're right," or "I agree with John" about ten times. The two agreed on energy, both wanting alternative fuels and nuclear plants. They agreed, amazingly, that more troops need to be sent to Afghanistan (how are Obama supporters going to whitewash THAT?) They both say they'll look at each budget line, or veto bills to prevent "pork" in the budget. They quibbled interminably but ultimately agreed that a president doesn't sit down with bad guys unconditionally, or without having diplomatic underlings do a lot of "preparation" work first. They both want to tread carefully with Pakistan, and they both wear bracelets they received from tearful mothers of veterans. They both want to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and they both strongly opposed Russian aggression into Georgia.

So, where was the debate? McCain accused Obama of desiring to add billions in spending on new programs; Obama accused McCain of wanting to give CEOs and corporations millions in tax breaks. McCain emphasized his experience; Obama tried to tie his opponent (unsuccessfully, I thought) to Bush, and blame the "last 8 years" for the nation's financial woes and a muck in Iraq.

Bottom line: they both looked rather nervous, neither was spectacularly articulate, and most viewers probably enjoyed a snooze during the second half. But who won? Obama, thankfully, came across as a moderate with a social twist--not the big reformer. He never mentioned either the words "change" or "hope."

McCain kept referring to his meetings with world leaders, his being on the scene for previous wars, his shaping of legislation over decades. He was clearly the better prepared to be president, and so I think he came out ahead.
But neither guy has the warmth of Clinton. I'll be interested to see the Palin-Biden debate Thursday.


  1. Happy New Year!

    I have to admit I am so weary of the presidential race that I just long for it all to be over. I honestly forgot that the debate was on the other night, and I'm not sure I would have watched it if I had remembered.

    I greatly dislike Obama and hope he doesn't win, but though I like McCain and will vote for him, I can't say I am excited about him. I think I just fear where the country is going and don't feel as though anyone else (besides you, of course!) feels the same way. I am surrounded by Obama supporters (though not in my own home), and it feels so discouraging.

    Any words of advice or uplifting hopes? Politics is just a drag to me right now....

  2. Ought to be interesting to see what comes from tomorrow's VP debate... considering the "moderator" is in the tank for Obama.

    Is it any wonder why the public harbors such a genuine distrust of the mainstream media?