Archive for Sunday, September 28, 2008

Debate may encourage McCain backers

September 28, 2008

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— There were no knockout blows in the first presidential debate of the fall, but John McCain out-pointed Barack Obama often enough to encourage his followers that he can somehow overcome the odds and deny the Democrats the victory that has seemed to be in store for them.

It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama began a sentence with the words that McCain was "absolutely right" about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgement of his opponent's wisdom, even though the two did, in fact, agree on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator - an impression reinforced by Obama's frequent glances in McCain's direction and McCain's studied indifference to his rival.

Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know.

But it reinforced my impression that McCain was the more aggressive debater. He flung the adjectives that stick in a listener's mind, calling Obama "naive" and therefore "dangerous."

Given that most of the debate was on foreign policy and national security, supposedly McCain's strong subjects, the Obama camp is justified in thinking that their guy did not embarrass himself.

Obama made his point that the preoccupation with Iraq - which McCain in effect confirmed - had cost the United States in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden is believed to have built his base of operations, and in the eyes of the world.

And while Obama continued to struggle to explain his original opposition to the "surge" strategy implemented by Gen. David Petraeus and championed by McCain, he did put his opponent on the defensive.

"John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007," he said. "You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003. And at the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni, and you were wrong." All that, Obama said, counts against McCain as an arbiter of future security policy.

That was a clean hit, but there were few others coming from that direction. And McCain was loaded for bear on everything from Obama's history as a seeker of earmarks to his readiness for talks "without precondition" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The biggest surprise of the debate was the shared diffidence on the topic du jour - the Wall Street bailout plan. Neither candidate would give moderator Jim Lehrer a straight answer as to whether he supported the administration request for a $700 billion rescue effort.

They were even more evasive when Lehrer pressed them to say how they would adjust their ambitious plans to accommodate the budgetary effects of that massive government expenditure.

It was Never-Never Land, as Obama and McCain struggled to avoid the full implications of this economic policy calamity. McCain finally threw out the possibility of a freeze on all federal expenditures except defense, veterans' care and entitlements - but Obama immediately objected, citing his eagerness to boost early childhood education.

Perhaps the next two debates will offer opportunities to pin these artful dodgers down on how they would operate under the burdens the Bush administration will leave behind. Otherwise, the voters may go to the polls with only the vaguest idea of the truly tough choices the next president will face.

The pre-debate polls showed a definite tilt toward Obama, keyed to the worsening climate. This debate probably did little to change that. It would behoove someone to start talking realistically about the difficulties that lie ahead. A little candor would do wonders for this race.

- David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Centerville 6 years, 8 months ago

Now we learn that the mother of the soldier whose name is on Obama's "I've got a bracelet, too" had asked him not to wear it.

jonas_opines 6 years, 8 months ago

"Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi, I do not know."Wow, what a terrible way to boil this down. Obama is willing to agree when McCain speaks truth, McCain seems nothing more than disdainful and aloof, and somehow McCain comes out on top? As if this is just a simple pissing contest or something? God, our country is @#$%^ up.

Sparko 6 years, 8 months ago

Hmm. Nice to see what the conservative asses believe happened Friday. Broder really went against type. McCain looked and acted like a grumpy old man who needed a nap. And better crib notes. I guess the crises of the past eight years are reason enough to keep voting Republican. Maybe they can end life on this planet for their encore.

Bladerunner 6 years, 8 months ago

Really? I watched the debate and think Broder is "absolutely right".

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

The article's last paragraph states: "The pre-debate polls showed a definite tilt toward Obama, keyed to the worsening climate. This debate probably did little to change that."How exactly does that fit with the headline? I have no idea how a debate that did nothing to harm Obama's lead in the polls over McCain can be seen as encouraging to McCain backers.

Sparko 6 years, 8 months ago

The funny thing, and sad thing, for the GOP trolls here, is that Obama clearly won the debate, Palin has been a disaster, and the Democrat is up at least 8-points in national polls. Meanwhile, elsewhere in this paper, you discover that engineers graduate and leave Kansas; that the best and brightest minds put their talents to work for progressive states. Leaving Kansas with the GOP spin artists that seem to crowd this paper. Lawrence was founded by progressives for equal opportunity. Kansas seems more like Missouri in 1858 these days. What about the 4,100+ dead troops, the 12-trillion dollar debt, the disaster in the Gulf Coast, and the disintegration of the economy did you guys miss? You are all be very proud of your insipid GOP talking points when the state is in need of a transfusion of energetic minds.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 8 months ago

"Whether viewers caught the verbal and body-language signs that Obama seemed to accept McCain as the alpha male on the stage in Mississippi,I do not know.",;-DAlpha male?Did the author actually use that construct?Baboon.( BTW, anyone catch "Killer Stress" on PBS, recently?It offered some unexpected insights into "alpha males" and the potentialfor communities to thrive... in their absence. )

Sparko 6 years, 8 months ago

Furthermore, on the bracelet, the soldier's mother was ecstatic that Obama mentioned her son: "She said Obama's mention on Friday was appropriate because he was responding after Senator John McCain said a soldier's mother gave him a bracelet. Jopek says Obama's comment rightfully suggested there's more than one viewpoint on the war."Lying is what happens when you listen to the Missouri Blowhard named Limbaugh.

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