The Obamanator vs. McCain Machine: Round 1

This note pertains to tonight’s Presidential Debate, the first of 3 between the two candidates, not including the Vice-Presidential Debate. Hopefully that sentence did inspire the thought “It’s an election year?”. If you were unable to see the debate and/or did not have the ability to record it, come to my apartment, I will watch it with you.

The two-part questions is, what did you think of the debate and how did you think the candidates handled themselves? Please feel free to disagree with me (of course you will feel free… this is democracy!)

What a much better election we have this time around. In every way, these candidates are superior to their predecessors. Of that I am pleased. I took a lot of notes tonight, which I’ll get to in a moment, and I also kept score. My incredibly scientific method was as follows: any time I think a candidate makes a compelling, interesting or insightful statement, he gets a point. A tally-mark, to be more specific. Written by hand. In pen. On a blue-ish notepad. I did my best not to look at the score during the debate, and I think I mostly succeeded. Essentially, I am treating the debates like a best of 3 series in sports, the winner of which will receive as a grand prize: my vote.

The final score was Senator Obama – 26, Senator McCain – 22

Obama started out with a solid 2 point cushion, and it went back and forth for about the first 45 minutes. He jumped out, and though in the first 10 minutes or so he seemed to dodge some questions and talk around the matter, he quickly hit his stride and made great points. McCain made very good points, but it seemed to me that toward the beginning, his points were more general and vague, while Obama’s had a specificity I found encouraging. The subject was the current financial crisis, and I will not attempt to give a play by play of all the points covered. Suffice it to say, both candidates’ presidencies will be affected by it, and both seem to oppose the idea of a “non-reviewable” $700,000,000,000.00 bailout. Smart men. They also talked about Healthcare plans, both of which I think will be improvements in some way.

In the middle of the debate, McCain actually took the lead. As noted, specificity is important to me. I want details. Details show thought. They reveal insight while generalities (such as this entire blog) seem to have a limited depth of knowledge. McCain’s war experience is, to say the least, impressive. That man knows his stuff. So does Obama, but in this instance, the hype is correct: McCain is more experienced. He’s got decades more than Obama, which means a deeper understanding of a history not merely learned, but lived. It also means he meanders off into storyland a bit too often, detailing that time he was in Russia, or the time he met with…

The most interesting head to head moment was the discussion of whether or not to grant meetings with hostile leaders. Obama’s point: “This notion that by not talking with people we are punishing them has not worked.” He’s right. It hasn’t. McCain counters that to have face to face meetings with these leaders, who espouse hateful doctrines, is to legitimize their cause. He’s also right. You don’t meet with a fanatical loon. You meet with people of power. To meet is to implicitly grant them power and may be giving them a stage. But. In the end, I agree with Obama when he said that the President of the united States has the right to meet with whoever he wants, whenever he wants, and that it doesn’t make sense to meet with enemy groups only after they’ve agreed to change.

From that point on, McCain seemed to lose a step, about the final 30 minutes. He got repetitive. He wasn’t wrong in what he said, it was all fine, some of it was a bit too much like his campaign speeches, but he seemed to get defensive very quickly. At one point, Obama was trying to respond to him, and McCain just cut him off. Jim Lehrer, the Moderator, had already attempted to move on, so rather than take more time, going round and round on a tiny point, Obama just said, “It’s fine. Jim, let’s move on.” He got a point for that.

In general, in terms of ACTUAL spoken, detailed policies, these two men are very similar. The distance between their policies is the time it takes to rewrite the other candidate’s policies with a different sentence structure. Both candidates, I think, are very aware of this, and in order to have something to debate about, they put together teams of interns – hundreds of 20-something idealist left- and right-wingers – to find contextless soundbites of the other candidate to be used to create the illusion of a large expanse between them. A chasm of inches is what it amounts to. It was like an improv scene at times. One or the other would pull a random quotation out of their pocket and then try to weave it into the fabric of the current subject. And every time, the other candidate merely said, no, you’re misrepresenting me, here’s the real story. Mini-conflicts were introduced and resolved in mere seconds. This is called politics.

The real difference, as far as I can see it, is that Obama, at this point, is cooler. He’s more popular. He seems calmer. Every time I see him ON the campaign trail (I hate that term, by the way), he looks tired, his sentences have big gaps in them, he seems to lose his train of thought. I think the ordeal of the Primaries and now the General Election are starting to wear on him. But tonight, he looked well-rested, he spoke clearly, defined his points, did a nice job. If there is one man I WOULD send in to have a meeting with our enemies, it’d be him, because I have the sneaking suspicion, he could communicate with them better than anyone.

On the other hand, McCain may be the smartest man alive. He is very savvy, he has no trouble keeping up with Obama in terms of the manner in which he speaks, how he communicates. And I could not detect one hint of his age hindering him in any way. At least not tonight. He has a tendency to get too heated at times, he can be a bit aggressive; although, this skill just might be handy when you’re dealing with all the daily slog the President goes through. And, if Obama for some reason cannot convince our enemies, McCain will explain to them the details of their impending demise and then enact it upon them. And he won’t screw the pooch the way Ole W. has.

Looking forward to the next debate… 1 piece of advice to both men. Talk to EACH OTHER for a change. Look at each other, address each other. Who knows, you might just get into a bi-partisan discussion!

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