Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Quick Take on the Final Debate of 2008
Fox News Being fair and balanced despite itself.
This was the best of the four presidential and vice presidential debates. I immediately felt the tension between Obama and McCain -- probably because McCain from the very outset was on the attack. I thought McCain was pretty effective through about the first twenty-five minutes of the debate; Obama was defending, explaining, sort of on his heels. But even as McCain was going after Obama, perhaps effectively at points, I kept wondering how it was coming across. By this point, most people are probably sick of attacks and bickering. That's basically all McCain threw out there tonight. The Ayers stuff and the Acorn stuff is just DOA. No one gives a rat's ass. Just take a look at the 401(k) that just arrived in the mail, this week's retail sales numbers, or Ben Bernanke's outlook for the near future.
I admit that I had to chuckle with some admiration at McCain's downright Nixonian gambit of attempting to feel sorry for himself because Congressman John Lewis had supposedly gone over the line in condemning the McCain-Palin lynch-mob rallies and the racist and extremist venom being spewed at those rallies (e.g., calling out to "kill" Obama, calling Obama a "terrorist", etc.). Clasic Nixon: attack dirty, then pretend to be deeply hurt and offended when called on it. (And see if you can follow the string back and figure out why McCain was purportedly offended.) But there is no doubt, this was McCain's best performance yet. He knew how much this last debate counted, as his last chance to reach a massive national audience, and I can admit that, in many ways, especially at the outset, he rose to the occasion. One does not get as far as McCain has simply by accident.
I thought Obama was a little shaky at the outset, and got a little wordy at times. I do think, however, that he explained his health care plan well, gave a solid rationale for his support of Roe v. Wade, and made a pretty clear distinction between his tax policies and McCain's. I thought Obama really missed an opportunity on the Vice Presidential question: I was just dying for him to say something along the lines of, "In picking my Vice President, my primary concern was to choose someone who was absolutely qualified to take over as President should that ever be necessary." But he didn't, and instead wandered off about foreign policy and how Biden is from Scranton. Yes, Biden is a real person from Scranton. Palin is a real person from Wasilla, and I am a real person from Glastonbury. Whatever. He could have really hammered McCain on that question, in his velvet-glove Obama way.
I came out of this debate feeling a bit queasy. I mostly wanted it to be over, especially with McCain continually throwing everything at Obama in the hope that something would stick. Obama was mostly perfect in his composure in the face of this desperate barrage of garbage from McCain. And that's what I think we're all looking for right now: cool, calm, intelligence. A cool hand at the tiller, to borrow a phrase from Senator McCain.
As the flash polls started coming in from CNN and CBS and even Fox, showing that, yet again, independents and undecideds had concluded, by wide margins, that Obama had won, I began to realize that the America I am living in is a much different place than I had ever dared to hope. Part of me still cannot believe this is actually happening. Barack Obama can win. Barack Obama will win. Americans are ready. Americans have decided. We have had enough. We will not be fooled again. Across the country, from Indiana to Colorado, from Florida to New Mexico, we are ready to turn the page. We are ready for the future. We live in a great country. And we live in a great time.
God Bless America.