Obama: Presidential, McCain: Brawler, American People: which?

Watching the debate has been a roller coaster ride for me – both from being outside of the country and seeing how people are responding to the election and the financial crisis. But the thing that has been the scariest has been watching the tactics of the two campaigns and seeing which is winning out in the press.

My $0.02 of tonights debate

Watching this – I saw in the first third of the debate a candidate who looked like a deer caught in the headlights – bobbing and weaving on the issues of the financial crisis. With more stories of past experiences and no substance, McCain has to ride out the conversation topics since his gambit on “suspending the campaign” did not work out. And, it seems as though his debate prep consisted of two things – ride through the financial crisis with various stories and do not look at Obama.

Obama, on the other hand, seemed to be focusing on the concept of being the Presidential statesman – the person who will rise above the double-talk rhetoric and to establish himself as the more “presidential”. I keep thinking that his answers could benefit from the training that Biden is getting – less rhetoric and more meat and KISS (keep it simple).

For the most part, the economic part of this debate was Obama’s to win, and McCain scampered through it.

The other 2/3rds

This is where I am somewhat disappointed in the debate.

Obama has incredible mental resources and an ability to understand the concepts above and beyond the typical politician. But I think he had one overriding directive in his mind: “do not be the angry black man”. When McCain went on with empassioned, “factual” points (yeah, right!) and continued to interrupt Obama, Obama was polite and proper. Never once showing a flash of passion, a flare of anger – which could be used by the Repugs against him.

McCain kept his eyes on the prize – where he would state off into space – Obama would be looking right at him. What I wanted – in some way – was something that was said on twitter: a Harry Potter moment where Obama cried out and said something like:

John – look here! John, wipe that smirk off your face and listen for once.

This is America we are talking about. This is not about your legacy, not about your poll numbers – but about real Americans and the issues that we face.

You spend your time playing the politics of devisiveness and not the vision of the future. You spend more time coming up with sound bites and Hail Mary moves in your campaign, rather than providing real leadership.

You should provide answers, instead of fireside chats with minutia of your many years of traveling on the taxpayers dime. Where are your real proposals? Where is your real meat? Cutting taxes? Tax cutting and rampant defense spending is a major reason for why we, the American people are in this mess that you suspended your campaign for.

I am tired of your rhetoric and I think America is also. It is time for a real debate, not one of platitudes and war stories.

But McCain pandered to the retiree vote, the Jewish vote (the number of times I heard reference to the Holocast was astonishing), the parents of military servicemen and women (when Obama said “I have a bracelet too John”, that just blew my mind) and to veterans.

Obama was playing defense to McCain’s offense and rampant pandering and prevarications. That is not being Presindential, that is being the better debater in a Lincoln-Douglas debate held in a college auditorium.


IMHO – McCain came out looking like the fiesty brawler, Obama came out looking like the statesman. I want Obama in office, because I believe that his judgment will be the one I trust the best – since not everything can be summarized into partisan soundbites. But, I also want someone who – in front of a worldwide audience can smack down someone with the right kind of style and panache that will demonstrate it to us as a whole that he will take on the “baddies” of the world and be the leader of the Free World.

My favorite part of the debate was Obama’s last statements where he talked about looking beyond the lens of terrorism and into the lens of all of the issues. Singleminded, mono-focused view points is what took our eyes off the ball and led us into this mess. A true President will think beyond the one-line rhetoric and deliver us to the reality that is the Next American Century.

From CNN Transcript, emphasis mine:

Oh, there’s no doubt. Look, over the last eight years, this administration, along with Senator McCain, have been solely focused on Iraq. That has been their priority. That has been where all our resources have gone.

In the meantime, bin Laden is still out there. He is not captured. He is not killed. Al Qaeda is resurgent.

In the meantime, we’ve got challenges, for example, with China, where we are borrowing billions of dollars. They now hold a trillion dollars’ worth of our debt. And they are active in countries like — in regions like Latin America, and Asia, and Africa. They are — the conspicuousness of their presence is only matched by our absence, because we’ve been focused on Iraq.

We have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because we have viewed everything through this single lens, not to mention, look at our economy. We are now spending $10 billion or more every month.

And that means we can’t provide health care to people who need it. We can’t invest in science and technology, which will determine whether or not we are going to be competitive in the long term.

There has never been a country on Earth that saw its economy decline and yet maintained its military superiority. So this is a national security issue.

We haven’t adequately funded veterans’ care. I sit on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and we’ve got — I meet veterans all across the country who are trying to figure out, “How can I get disability payments? I’ve got post-traumatic stress disorder, and yet I can’t get treatment.”

So we have put all chips in, right there, and nobody is talking about losing this war. What we are talking about is recognizing that the next president has to have a broader strategic vision about all the challenges that we face.

That’s been missing over the last eight years. That sense is something that I want to restore.

Worst part of the debate: right after, listening to the BBC and going to reporters all over the globe and commenting on the impact of the debate. The ominous statement was made by a BBC reporter in Beijing, China: “I think China will be happy with this debate. As long as Americans are spending on China’s credit card…”

UPDATE: Glad someone agreed with me – listen to what Maureen Dawd said.

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