Saturday, September 27, 2008

The real debate happens after the actual debate.

It was my girlfriend's birthday yesterday. And although I told her that I would let her watch anything she liked, I ended up forcing her to watch the Obama-McCain presidential debate at 9:00. Although I must say, she was kinda interested in it. Of course, she went to bed as soon as the pundits started dissecting the whole thing. And while certain networks (MSNBC included) appeared to be very impartial about the whole outcome, others (FOX News included) managed to showcase their partisan bias at full force. Which is standard procedure. It amazes me that the debate over who won the debate is more contentious than the debate itself. Wait, scratch that. It doesn't amaze me at all. It's pretty obvious that this will happen, isn't it?

But that being said, I didn't hear anyone saying the things that occurred to me during the debate. I, as my blog has made clear in the past little while, am fully in the Obama camp when it comes to the American presidential election. And I was rooting for him to destroy McCain in this debate. And didn't happen. At all. I expected McCain to hold his own when it comes to foregin policy (and Obama did better than I thought he would on that front. In fact, I think he won the foreign policy portion of the debate.) But the one area where McCain is weakest (by his own admission, at times) is the economy. And with the massive bailout controversy going on in the governement now, of course the economy was going to be a major topic last night. And yet, McCain appeared to win that portion of the debate.

He kept hammering on earmarks and pork-barrel spending and all this crap. He started railing about the fact that the government had sent 3 million dollars to study the DNA of bears. And I thought - here it is, Obama! Bring up the fact that McCain's own running mate requested an earmark to study the DNA of harbor seals! But he didn't. If he could have steered the discussion away from all this no-win tax break business - like, back to the bailout, or more pointedly, to McCain's love for deregulation, things could have been different. But he didn't. He let McCain drive the discussion toward basically irrelevant things like earmarks and cutting spending and the tax break plan. He could easily have hammered on McCain for his history fighting fiercely for deregulation, a position that helped to create the climate in which today's crisis could come to pass. In fact, any discussion on the economy, except for the one they actually had, would have favoured Obama. So why didn't he steer the debate in that direction?

I think maybe it was because he wanted a civil, pleasant debate early on, and it wasn't until McCain really went on the attack that he stepped it up, and by then the economic thing was past. But watching Lehrer ask both candidates, over and over, what programs they would cut from their plan because of the economic crisis and the 700 billion dollar bailout, while they both answered completely different questions, was pretty painful.

So then Obama understands how the debate is going to go, and goes a little more on the attack. But did he attack enough? Did he jump on the opportunities he was given? Again, not really. Most specifically, I thought, was a moment near the end of the foreign policy debate, where McCain basically made (for the first time ever) the admission that the U.S. does indeed torture people. And that he wants to make sure they never do again, and he has fought against torture. And all Obama says is that he agrees with McCain? That's it? Yes, there shouldn't be torture? How about hammering McCain on the fact that the anti-torture measures he passed through are actually completely toothless? That they include dozens of loopholes that allow the United States to go on torturing people as much as they like without fear of retribution. It's quite similar to the Bush administration saying they don't torture by re-defining the word "torture". McCain's measures do the same, allowing people to torture others be re-defining the titles of those doing the toruturing. So why not call him out on it? What is going on!

In the end, I think Obama showed an incredible command of facts and a clear plan of action in terms of American foreign affairs. McCain was unsuccessful at painting Obama as a guy who "doesn't understand". In fact, McCain came off as a smug little prick, frankly, as he never once looked at Obama the whole time, as he smirked in a self-satisfied way and looked patronizing when he addressed the camera. But in terms of the actual debate, and the points made, McCain actually won. He doesn't speak as well as Obama. He doesn't have the coherent policies that Obama has. He doesn't have the same command of the facts as does Obama. But Obama let him dictate the terms of the first half hour, and that made all the difference.

God, I hope the next one goes better. Then again, the one I am really looking forward to watching is the vice-presidential debate. Much as I was surprised that Obama didn't destroy McCain last night, I will be thirty times more surprised if Joe Biden doesn't wipe the floor with Sarah Palin. Both have looked foolish with Katie Couric of late - Biden making that bizarre factual error about FDR and the television and the great depression. But watching Palin in her interview with Couric was staggering. It was like watching the guy with the microphone asking a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant about world peace and what she wants to be when she grows up. Although at the very least, Couric didn't pat her on the head and say "oh, that's sweet, dear" when Palin went off on that bizarre Putin Airspace Invade Alaska tangeant. I saw McCain on Couric too. Only, I saw him on that show only when David Letterman showed the live footage of McCain preparing for that interview. Having just called Letterman to cancel his appearance. Because he was speeding to the airport right now to don a cape and tights and Save The Day with the mortgage crisis. In fact, this is now my favourite youtube clip:

NINE minutes, Letterman goes off on McCain. Hilarious. Don't piss that man off. Here's another great one, Palin on Couric:

That country is insane! Thank God we have Stephen Harper and his ilk running for...oh, right.


  1. American politics. Arghhhhh!!!!!! Our economy relies too much on their economy!!!

  2. American politics, more interesting to watch than Harper versus Dion!