Thursday, October 16, 2008

Presidential Debate #3

So this was the last and final debate of this presidential election and I have to say that I'm relieved: relieved that we're that much closer to ending what has been a constant source of amusement/stress for me and relieved that I don't have to watch any more presidential debates for four more years. This review is going to be a cursory one as I assume that I'm as tired of writing about these things as you all are of reading about them.

First the moderator: I thought that Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face The Nation did a fine job moderating the event; he stuck to his promise of at least attempting to hold the candidates' feet to the fire without looking like too much of a jerk and I thought that his practice of letting the candidates pose follow-up questions to each other made for a lot more substantive (a relative word in a presidential debate, I know) give and take between the two of them. He was well balanced and brought up several topics that have not been addressed thus far in this type of forum.

Overall I'd say that this was John McCain's best performance so far; he came out of the gate strong and energized, looking to take the fight to Barack Obama the way his base and the right wing talk radio and blogosphere crowds have been cajoling him to for weeks now. Unfortunately for him and all of them I still don't think that it was nearly enough to stem the tide that has been steadily rising against him for the past several weeks. As in past appearances he seemed cranky, irritable and impatient, looking and playing the part of an agitated, petulant teenager with a face full of wrinkles and jowls; in short, he did not come off as looking presidential.

Obama played this one exactly as I would have advised him to if he was ever foolish enough to ask me for advise on how to play a debate: he seemed cool, calm, intelligent and engaged; he consistently looked at Schieffer and McCain when addressing them but I thought he really connected when he addressed the camera directly, seeming as if he were speaking right to the American voting public. He didn't dodge questions or parse language nearly as much as he has in past debates and I think that his willingness to engage on hard questions and allegations really helped him to radiate a sense of confidence and leadership; again in short, he portrayed the strength and gravitas of an American president.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time here breaking down the issues because frankly, despite my compliment to Schieffer on bringing up things not discussed in past debates, this exchange had about as much relevance as the other three debates in this election (read: very little). Some highlights:

- Joe the Plumber, a real citizen whom Obama spoke to at a past rally or town hall meeting, became the impromptu star of this evening by being the stand-in for every average, working-class, small business owner in the country; expect to hear his name being bandied about for the next few days or so (blatant link to my buddy PK's blog here).

- McCain had what was perhaps the line of the night: "I am not president Bush. If you want to run against president Bush, you should have done that four years ago." Of course his voting record and policy proposals directly contradict that but we do live in a society obsessed with the soundbite fueled, 24-hour news cycle, so that line should have life for a little while.

- When both candidates spoke about their vice-presidential picks I almost drifted off hearing about Joe Biden (who I still think was a great choice) while I was waiting to hear what McCain came up with about Sarah Palin. Big disappointment: it was the same boiler plate bullshit about her bringing fresh life and reform to Washington; been there, heard that, still don't buy that she's anything more than incompetent.

- When asked whether they would require a litmus test on Roe vs. Wade for their Supreme Court justices, McCain declared outright that he would not but that he would require that every justice he nominated to the court would have to be "qualified" to serve on the court; his definition of being qualified: "No" on Roe vs. Wade. I seem to remember similar rhetoric being used when Bush vehemently opposed a "timeline" for our withdrawal from Iraq while speaking in the same breath about a "time horizon"; Orwell was really good at this stuff but these guys are the masters.
So to wrap up, I predict that Obama will be declared the winner of this debate just as he and Biden were of the other three, making these contests pretty much a clean sweep. By all accounts McCain had to knock one out of the park in this one and it obviously did not happen; his restless energy, constant interruptions and almost inhuman amount of blinking made him appear uncomfortable and anxious. Obama did exactly what he needed to do here: not make any major gaffes or mistakes and maintain his solid lead while increasing that lead amongst undecideds.

My take on the election at this point is that it's Barack Obama's to lose and from what I've seen over the last 20 months I don't give that scenario much probability of happening. Truthfully, I think that there is very little McCain can do at this point; he's tried the Hail Mary passes of nominating a complete disaster of a vice-presidential candidate, directing all the energy of his campaign towards unfounded, ad hominem attacks and selling out the last vestiges of honor and dignity he had left, and he's come up short every time. I'm not going so far as to definitively call this thing for Obama but I do see one of two scenarios playing out: either things get close and Obama barely squeaks out a win or things go the other way and Obama enters landslide country; either way, I wouldn't waste my money on McCain if I were a millionaire (which he is).

[Update: As I reread this post in the light of day and minus the Corona's I drank while watching the debate it appears that it was in fact nowhere near cursory as I promised it would be; my apologies. To make up for it here's a video compiling all of McCain's ticks, blinks, twitches and eye rolls from last night; this is the agitated, petulant teenager I referred to above:
Again, which of these two men looks like a president to you?]


Anonymous said...

haha, i love the video!

I do think it is interesting that Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher just so happens to be the son of Robert Wurzelbacher, the son-in-law of--guess who?--none other than Robert Keating of the KEATING FIVE... unbiased, neutral, "average Joe" indeed...

JBW said...

Thanks for checking out the site but I have to make a correction: Joe and Keating are not related. I'm no fan of McCain but we have to stick to the facts in this election; It's what seperates us from them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for catching me up. Even though I've found this election season to be far more interesting than Bush v. Kerry, I've managed to keep less informed and viewed.

Intrepid Californio said...

JBW, thanks for the link to my blog.

I did like the debate myself. I mean it obviously did not change how I am voting. But for me and others who have not heard Obama and McCain speak as much as the "more informed",it was illuminating. Obama did not come off as ostentatious. McCain on the other hand seemed to be giving Obama the high hat the whole time. Just my thoughts.