Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Poor Tom Brokaw

Well, I think Barack Obama came off as cool and confident and on point tonight. Chris Matthews is right that he is blessed with an engaging and open and friendly smile. John McCain didn't come off too badly either. I think he is fundamentally wrong on a majority of the issues; but I don't think he was flailing or that he suffered a definitive loss. Unfortunately for his campaign, he didn't land a knock out punch either. And considering Obama's continued momentum in swing states and overall, McCain really needed something to turn this ship around. I do think Obama won; that being said, I don't think he had a knock out.

John McCain had some gaffes tonight; although it didn't bother me, there has been a big kerfuffle about McCain's pointing at Obama and saying "That one" in regard to voting on an energy bill put forth by Bush and Cheney and that contained perks ("goodies") for the oil companies. CBS brought it up and according to Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, it is one of the more pressing points in the spin room. Which kind of bothers me, because that is very much a cosmetic item. My biggest complaint is this idea that Big Government=bad, that Barack Obama=Big Government, that the roll of government should be to get out of people's ways - but that government should buy up all of the bad mortgages in order to shore up our economy. I'm not really entirely sure about that plan, but the plan itself is not the problem I have. The problem I have is the same problem (well, one out of many) I had with Sarah Palin in the VP debate; I find it completely disingenuous to paint Obama with a Big Government brush and claim to be the opposite, and then put forth the contrary idea that government should step in and have it be something other than Big Government. The total disconnect of the two sides of McCain's and Palin's argument strike me as being simply a political ploy to undermine Obama's stance on the issues as simply being a bureaucratic nightmare while simultaneously recognizing that telling voters they're on their own on a majority of these issues is not a way to win an election.

And with that, I will go on to a more cosmetic issue. McCain's constant phrases ("my friends", "thank you for that question") bothered me. It seemed rehearsed and too forced. McCain likes to consider himself a straight talker and that is more than acceptable; the problem I have is that I feel so much more condescended to when McCain speaks than when Obama does. Obama, and it seems strange to type this, has an odd bit of unforced folksy charm. Whereas Sarah Palin seems to suffer from "stage folksy charm", Obama's seems natural and completely real and simply a part of his personality. "Green behind the ears"... "High on the hog"... He even, at times, dropped his g's from the ends of words. And yet, it didn't seem like it was something he was doing in order to prove his normalcy, or as a way to connect to us "ordinary folk", those "Joe Six-Packs" and "Hockey Moms". Obama did at times take on a professorial role, and I personally liked it. It was balanced and measured, but not unemotional. It was calm and informative without being dictatorial. Obama has been, as Newsweek called him, Mr. Cool, and it served him well tonight.

There were some other aspects of the debate tonight that I cheered for and that I disliked. I practically jumped out of my seat when McCain referenced Theodore Roosevelt's "Talk softly and carry a big stick", and said that he was astounded that Barack Obama would say that he would attack another nation and how McCain himself would never telegraph his punches. I desperately wanted Obama to hit him with the "Bomb bomb bomb Iran" bit, and expected him not to. I was pleasantly surprised when Obama did reference that. I also loved Obama saying that the Straight Talk Express seemed to have lost a wheel. What I would have also enjoyed hearing, in response to McCain's criticism of sitting down with antagonistic governments without any preconditions, would be a historical context for such a move. Kennedy opened channels to talk to the Soviet Union; and although it did nothing to alleviate the Cold War it did provide an opportunity to better understand the Soviet Union and to negotiate with them during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Obama plainly stated that there was no guarantee that sitting down with rival nations would work, and there is no guarantee that it would. But it could; and even if it does not it allows us opportunities that we otherwise may not have had.

I also wonder, and this may stem into a separate post after further examining the issue, how well economic sanctions work against nations. Cuba has been subject to our economic sanctions for decades. Iraq had economic sanctions against it as well. And yet, leadership did not change in either of those two nations. And in some cases, possibly many cases, the economic sanctions did not hurt those at the top but rather adversely influenced those at the bottom. Do we really want to work at improving our image in the world by imposing economic sanctions instead of working on diplomatic solutions?

At the end of this, I have to say that I felt badly for Tom Brokaw. The man was clearly upset that the two candidates did not stick to the agreed debate format. I kind of liked his snarky comment about the lights the candidates could see being indicators for how much time they had to talk, as if neither one of them had ever been part of a formal debate before.


MediaMaven said...

I agree with you. I understood Tom Brokaw's anger, and that actually turned out to be the most entertaining aspect of the debate, though in a sad way. I was annoyed at McCain throughout--all those "cosmetic phrases", the fact that he decided to borrow Sarah Palin's strategy of not answering the questions, instead sticking to platitudes and padding (something his charm does not cover), his utter disregard for the rules of the debate and telling Tom Brokaw to wave his hands to signal him to stop because he couldn't be bothered to look a the lights (which were in clear view for the audience).

John said...

While I agree that both candidates showed disregard for time limits, I can understand why they pushed to get as much out as possible. When a person from the "town hall" asks how the bailout will fix the economy, is any worthwhile answer going to fit in a one- or two-minute window? Experts spend hours every day trying to explain this crisis, and it can be said that even they don't grasp the full extent of it! The only thing that will fit into such a short window is a glaring oversimplification or generalization, which is why I felt this debate was much less relevant than it could have been. It might have served better if the questions had been more limited in scope and/or depth. Personally, I would have loved to see someone ask Barack Obama if he is a terrorist sympathizer, since that's what the McCain/Palin campaign has been spouting for the past several days. I think he could answer that categorically in under two minutes, though McCain's response would probably be even more interesting.