When the first presidential debate concluded, 97 minutes after it began at the University of Mississippi, both candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, had given their supporters something to build on. Obama backers say he seemed confident, presidential and got in a few noteworthy verbal jabs at his opponent, as when he answered McCain’s charges of being “the most liberal senator” with the effective line: “That was just me opposing Bush and your bad policies.”
The McCain faithful will say that their man essentially was on offense most of the time, seemed knowledgeable about foreign affairs, and played on his 26 years of experience quite effectively.
However, after watching the debate twice, I firmly believe there was no “draw.” The winner of the debate, viewed objectively, was clearly McCain. The first reason is the subliminal impression from Obama that he was forced to be more conciliatory toward McCain instead of hitting him in full attack mode. As a result, his repeating of the phrase “Senator McCain is right”-which he uttered eight times by my count-really went against his objectives, and it appeared as though he was reverencing McCain more than he was challenging him.
Obama blew a grand opportunity to really address the $700-billion bailout of the financial industry. It would have been great if Obama had spotlighted the problems with the bailout package-its failure to take into account the number of homeowners drowning in bad mortgages and falling property values. These are the individuals the bailout will largely ignore.
McCain spoke at length about the greed in Washington, D.C., uttering the same anadiplosis he did at the Republican Convention (“We Republicans went to Washington to change government-government changed us”) with nary a mention on the foreclosure crisis that is more responsible for getting us here than “the greed of Wall Street.”
Nevertheless, McCain was never taken to task on it. Both candidates were reluctant to directly address which parts of their individual economic plans would need to be cut due to the financial crisis. McCain continued to hammer home his “disdain” for earmark spending in Washington as if he never met his running mate Sarah Palin, who requested $198 million in earmarks in February of this year.
Meanwhile, Obama once again blew a chance to mention the hefty severance packages from Fannie Mae for members of McCain’s own campaign staff, including his chairman, when they left the company. Isn’t that the type of greed McCain is railing against?
Nevertheless, neither candidate will be inducted into the Wikipedia Hall of Fame as they both had their share of political misstatements. According to Warren P. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers, McCain mispronounced the name of Pakistan Leader Asif Ali Zardari, whom McCain referred to as “Qadari.” If Obama had pointed this out, it would have done more to repudiate the charges made of his inexperience than any defense of his own experience. Also McCain said that “because of the surge, we are winning in Iraq.” However, experts inside the U.S. government do not exactly “claim victory,” and Gen. David Petraeus told the Associated Press: “[The war] is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade. It’s not war with a simple slogan.”
McCain also incorrectly said that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower told of his intention to resign in a letter if D-Day had gone badly. According to opednews.com, he only took responsibility but didn’t mention resigning.
Obama said his tax plan will see taxes increase for those making “$250,000” annually although, according to ABCNews, it would actually be an increase for those individuals earning $200,000 per year.
However, McCain was on the offensive most of the night, controlling the tone and putting Obama, who was consistently on the defensive, back on his heels. Obama was forced to answer charges of “not knowing about foreign policy” rather than displaying how much he does know. Even McCain’s well publicized decision to never look directly at Obama when addressing him gave him a certain level of control that Obama never had.
On the other hand, McCain did not get the decisive knockout I think he was aiming for. Obama did not wilt under the pressure or foreign policy scrutiny and generally performed adequately, if not spectacularly.
This is just the beginning and on-lookers will be looking for more from both men as the debates continue in October.