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Monday, September 29, 2008

Debate response

So, I really haven't had a lot of time to write as of late because of work, but a recent bout of insomnia has given me some free time (which I'm not too excited about).

Speaking of insomnia and not being too excited here's some of my responses to the debate:

The winner? Well, it was a draw, both were on defense most of the time, and really danced around the questions. The big loser? Jim Leher. I was watching it with a group of people and they were rolling over laughing about the third time he tried to get the two to address each other face to face like some middle school kid trying to start a fight. It didn't work, and I lost a lot of respect for him, not only on that, but in how he mishandled this debate.

Speaking of face to face, John McCain did pretty well, it seemed to me, or better than he has in previous debates, that Reagan library one during the GOP primary was painful, but he was not TV good. His wry snarl just doesn't look very presidential, and his constant force laughter was painful to watch.

Other notes:
Obama was taller and McCain let go of the handshake first, though it wasn't much of one. Think that's not important? Look it up!

Obama called Sen. McCain by his first name and addressed him personally as John. Sen. McCain only called Sen. Obama by his last name, and not once looked Obama in the eye, or even in his general direction. He was hunched over and appealing to the crowd, which doesn't score very well as far as looking presidential. And as much as we pretend these are about substance its about 3 things. 1) looking presidential. 2) not messing up 3) making a good sound bite.

Back to #3, while there were no major gaffes, sure McCain got he president of Pakistan wrong, and couldn't pronounce the the name of the "president" of Iran. And the one line I thought was way out of line, was McCain, addressing Iran and nuclear weapons said that "we don't want another holocaust." Now, that's really not very subtle in trying to scare Jewish voters away from Obama, and rather overly dramatic and I'll get back to that in a second, but holocaust is a loaded word, and saying that we don't want another one, leaves him open for criticisms on his stances on the Baltic and Rwanda in the 90's, and Darfur, which is going on right now.

McCain left a lot of places open for Obama to drop the hammer, but Obama didn't. I'm not sure if the camp is pretty confident with the recent polling and feel they don't need to, but there were several instances were Obama could have nailed McCain, on lobbyists, on his relationship with Phil Graham, on his flip-flops, on Keating 5, and especially on Iraq and what that costs the taxpayers. The biggest question that

Obama should have asked McCain:

"You keep saying that leaving Iraq would draw defeat out of the hands of victory. But Senator, what exactly is victory in Irag? You keep saying it, but I don't know what you mean, and I think the American people would like to know what you mean."

or something along those lines, and then press him on Afghanistan.

My advice to Obama is to hit McCain harder, mostly because McCain looked pretty unhappy, and with his temper, if you hit him in the right place you have a pretty good chance of getting a mistake.

So, on substance, no clear winner. McCain was more impressive than he had been, Obama wasn't on top of his game,but looked more presidential. McCain sounded very Bush administration; he was short, impatient, condescending, and gave off an air of recklessness. Obama came off very pragmatic, reasonable, and steady.

The other thing that Obama should do in the last debate is drop the "L" word. Seems you can say anything about your opponent except say that they are lying. And while both misrepresented and distorted their opponents stances and records, John McCain has continued to out and out lie about Obama's tax plan. And that would be a powerful moment to say "John, you are lying to the American people about my tax proposal." Or something more punchy.

The common plan is to usually make your opponent do the most work, to talk the most, but while that technically "won" the debate for McCain, in that respect, Obama is a different type of politician. The more he talks, the better he comes across. So, if you're McCain, you need to 1) focus on winning the sound-bite battle, sound-bites aren't Obama's style. 2) Talk more about what you plan to do, not just tear down Obama's plans. Sure, that's by the book presidential debates, but in this case, you don't want to come off as a grinch.

Lastly, how should Joe Biden handle Sara Palin on Thursday night? He's in a precarious position. If he lays into her, which seems like it would be easy considering experience in debates, he'll come off as an old white man bullying some nice young lady. If he doesn't attack he gives the presupposition that he and Palin are equally qualified, and he can't do what he needs to do, which is attack John McCain's judgment, of which the Palin pick is a part.

I've heard two plans of attack, the first is rather unorthodox, which is to address this predicament in a Brechtian manner, talking directly to the public and telling them why you hesitate to attack the Gov. As much as I love Brecht I don't think that approach would play well. The other is to use the 1988 playbook, and go along with the debate, and then at a moment you know that Gov. Palin is going to mention Sen. Clinton, nail her with the "I know Hillary Clinton. I've worked with Hillary Clinton. Gov. Palin you're no Hillary Clinton." Then again while Lloyd Benstsen's line is considered the greatest political KO in modern American debate history, it didn't really help with the general election as he and Dukakis lost of Bush/Quayle.

My advice? Let the Gov. talk as much as she wants.

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