Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Future President Debates an Old Crank

I watched last night's Obama-McCain debate, all the while aware that I was doing so in a sort of bad faith -- there is absolutely zero chance that I won't vote for Obama, so why even watch? I didn't truly expect anything interesting to happen, although it would have been a shame to miss a genuine moment of the kind that live TV always might deliver (a streaker runs onto the stage, someone faints or vomits, someone throws a temper tantrum, etc.).

Nothing like that happened, but for whatever it's worth, McCain slightly exceeded my extremely low expectations simply by answering as though he actually knew what the questions were about. I don't recall agreeing with any of his answers, but at least he knew what was being asked and knew which answer the Chamber of Commerce and/or Christianist Right programmed and funded him to recite.

And the very fact that the debate format allowed the candidates to actually debate one another was, I think, a mild testimony to McCain -- at least going back to the first president Bush, Wide Stance presidential and vice-presidential candidates have tended to treat these debates as a necessary evil, and their flacks and handlers have constrained the format to allow their dumbass candidates to stay narrowly on script.

So with that said, McCain was a sneering, condescending shit to his opponent in keeping with his shamelessly mendacious campaign to date. Too often he fell back on his lazy talking points -- tax cuts and unspecified spending cuts will cure all that ails us, subject-verb-earmarks, self-branding as a maverick (isn't maverick-ness one of those qualities that others should assign to a person?), vacuous repetition of the word "reform," returning again and again to distorted accusations centered on Obama's public record of votes and statements, etc.

Putting aside the obvious fact that some people will agree more with McCain and others will agree more with Obama on particular points, I don't think any reasonable observer can watch that debate and conclude that McCain shows more knowledge or judgment than Obama, for all his advantages in experience, and for all his claims that foreign policy -- the primary focus of the debate -- is his forte. Obama more than matched McCain in being conversant on all the topics discussed.

No one had anything like a 'deer in the headlights' moment, or in light of our special-needs Wide Stance VP candidate, a 'moose in the headlights' moment.

I think Daniel Larison captured it pretty well:

McCain was more aggressive, no doubt, but it is my impression that it translated into contempt and condescension ... He used the word naive how many times? He was scolding him as if he were a school master, but it is far from clear in any of the exchanges that he knew more. Obama was not forceful enough, but he was so much more focused than he was earlier in the year. McCain came off, in my view, as a snide, bitter old man. His comments betrayed the sentiment of, “How dare you even think that you can compete with me.” This is what Clinton thought, and it destroyed her. McCain is desperate for something to go right in his campaign, and now that the debate focused on his alleged “strength” is behind them he is going to start flailing even more desperately and angrily.


larryniven said...

"...self-branding as a maverick (isn't maverick-ness one of those qualities that others should assign to a person?)..."

A lesson can be learned here, surprisingly, from street basketball. Street ballers usually go by nicknames, but they never - never - assign these nicknames to themselves. In fact, they rarely even mention the nicknames unless somebody explicitly asks them who they are. How could it possibly be that playground basketballers, the poster children for self-aggrandizement and big-headedness, actually have a stricter social protocol than John McCain?

Dale said...

Larry, it speaks volumes -- large, heavy, dense volumes -- about the old crank that, for reasons I am finding it harder and harder to locate, still commands the sympathy of millions of voters.

Domestically Challenged said...

What I found even more hilarious was when he so fondly called Palin a Maverick...