Last night’s debate

The Romans understood that politics is a particularly weird/brutal kind of sport (check out Tom Holland’s brilliant Rubicon for specific analogies vis-a-vis chariot racing), and they wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest by our presidential debates, where a single false move could cost a candidate the election. Neither candidate made such a move last night; indeed, Jim Lehrer’s decision to open things up at the start paradoxically seemed to make both Obama and McCain more careful in navigating their way forward. Which made for a somewhat boring first 15 minutes as the two men gingerly maneuvered around each other, neither wanting to start debating the specifics of a bailout bill that changes with every passing day . . .

But hey.  I just read John Scalzi’s latest post, and he’s got all sorts of advice for those who would comment on the debate, in particular the injunction to STAY AWAY FROM VIOLENT SPORTS ANALOGIES.  (Yawn.)  Though I do think he raises a good point in wondering why the “real people” scored the debate so differently from the pundits.  John thinks that’s because the voters are concerned with “steak not sizzle”; I gotta admit that’s news to me.  Because I didn’t hear a whole lot of substance last night.  What we got was the standard thing we get in every debate:  two candidates eager to allow the American people to continue in their delusion that fiscal questions can be addressed without hard decisions vis-a-vis military spending and entitlements.

No, I think the gap between the pundits (who rated the debate as even) and the independent voter/focus groups (most of whom scored it for Obama) has nothing to do with what was said and everything to do with what was seen.  Obama simply looked more presidential; he looked McCain in the eye, he didn’t cringe when the other guy was talking, and his posture was confident throughout.  McCain couldn’t even make eye contact in the initial handshake, and that says volumes to the voters.  Palin said she watched Tina Fey impersonate her with the sound down; anyone who did that to this debate knows exactly who won, and why.

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3 Responses to “Last night’s debate”

  1. Brian Says:

    It was a sparring match early, no doubt. But that favored Obama as he had no need to do anything but defend the high ground he now occupies. McCain had to make up for lost ground and he didn’t–in effect giving up a huge opportunity to stop the bleeding and ceding more ground to Obama.

    Pundits have to square themselves against a flood of unwelcome email from supporters of either camp (and a million so-called third party candidates) by playing it down the center. Pundits don’t really play a role beyond carrying the flag for one candidate or another–and there’s equal number on either side in order to make certain nobody gets an edge (3×3 on CNN). I’ll take the expressed win/loss as told by the voter over the pundit any day.

    And Palin didn’t watch the SNL skit with the volume down. She claims she did. I think that speaks volumes about her integrity (none). But let’s suppose she really did, is that saying much more about who she is?

  2. David Williams Says:

    I assume she claimed she watched it with the sound down so she wouldn’t have to take questions on it. What’s your take?

  3. narciso Says:

    Seeing as the last two Palin interviews were edited with a switchblade; look up the iris site for a more complete transcript. one wonders what is up with Gibson & now Couric. You would think the 3rd rated news anchor would do less to alienate any
    potential voter. However much like the former Hoosier weatherman, who doesn’t
    realize what the responsibilities of a Senator are; I guess not. Particularly since Biden, the great Drusus of the Senate, wasn’t flagged for not understanding when TV actually was available or who was President at the outset of the Great Depression. Did he repeat Intro to US History too. It is clear that McCain has no respect for Obama; the latter’s stunt with the bracelet is just a sign of this. The attempt to seek authority by appealing to Kissinger; the Alec Morgan of the 20th century; was pathetic and ultimately untrue.

    The NorthWest Frontier has always been seen as the ‘graveyard of empires'; yet according to the Guardian, AQ has harvested somewhat of a backlash like the Anbar Awakening in the Swat valley. The Brits faced this at Kandahar, Kabul, Maiwand, Malakand, Buner, Ambeyla over a hundred years time. Interestingly the events following Zardari’s accession to the highest office; including the Marriot bombing, was barely touched in the debate. The Russians only for a dozen years in Afghanistan; that’s about as long as their last match in Chechnya has gone by the way. Their experience in Georgia seems to have been less promising than Emperor Paul’s jaunt in 1799; or Stalin’s playing the Ossetian card did in 1921. The siloviki seem to have steered Putin, wrong again, for this czarist apprentice.

    This opera buffe has turned serious specially as those whose largesse and special favors like Lehman, WaMu, Fannie & Freddie have bestowed upon like Frank, Dodd, Obama et al; are in charge of the legislative process; lets try this again, what could
    possibly go wrong