Sunday, September 28, 2008

Presidential Debate #1

For whatever it's worth, messages I got from watching the debate:

Either McCain is highly misinformed about what Obama is saying and voting for and against, or he his advisers think he's a better spindoctor than he is. How many times did Obama have to clarify, saying, "That's not true, John." or, "You and I both know..."? I remember thinking that surely Senator McCain knew the details he was leaving out when he was spinning out accusations; he's an intelligent man.

I disagree that Senator Obama got thoroughly hammered on foreign policy. He made good points about Iran and Afghanistan. McCain was certainly stronger in this area, but I don't think that was a surprise to anyone. When Senator Obama talks foreign policy, I sometimes, not always, but sometimes get the feeling that he's only parroting his advisers. And that's okay really, because one man can never be an expert on everything; in fact, keeping company with wise counsel is a mark of humility, which is a mark of maturity. However, Obama's had to correct himself so frequently in this department, I worry a bit about the expertise of those advising him.

McCain's joke about not being able to reach that far across the isle was great. He had a couple of those moments where he really hit Obama with quick, unanswered jabs. "So let me get this straight," says McCain when debating about meeting with controversial (to say the least) foreign leaders, "you sit down with Ahmadinejad, he says, 'We're going to blow Israel off the face of the earth,' and we say, 'No you're not?' oh please!" I think these moments gave McCain a legitimate advantage in this first of these presidential debates. However, to be fair, I don't agree with McCain that having a meeting with these guys on air necessarily legitimizes their message; that seems like false logic to me. The way I figure it, when the world is exposed to the abhorrent ideals of a madman, it isn't going to to say, "Uh, yeah, that sounds legit."

Obama uses lists and plans ("Look. I have a plan: number one,... number two,... number three,... number four,...") while McCain uses anecdotes and key words or labels ("When I was a straight-talking maverick working with General..." Or, "My friends, Senator Obama isn't just naive and inexperienced, he's dangerous; he just doesn't get it.")

I think the debate was heated and interesting. I think it was close and a true indicator of this race. I'm looking forward to the following debates.


Elliot Rossiter said...

Isn't the French debate tomorrow night and the English one on Thursday night? Oh wait...wrong country. Do you know that we're having an election as well? Our election is on Oct. 14. Normally Canadians follow the American election but I think we're distracted by our own. I don't imagine, though, that our election makes your news that often. Do you find that in debates that persuasiveness is more highly valued than reasonableness? I do think that these two don't often equate.

renea mac said...

It's best when an orator is both persuasive and reasonable... You're right, I haven't seen any coverage of the Canadian elections, but your national anthem was played at the White House during a party on The West Wing. (I thought of that night we all stood out in the cold whatching fireworks over Villars and taking turns singing our national anthems.)

Elliot said...

Do you think that being persuasive and being reasonable are sometimes at odds with another? For instance, think about a political debate. I didn't watch the American one but I did watch some of the Canadian debate so I'll refer to it. It's much easier to say, "Mr. Harper your economic policy sucks and ours is right" - or at least to say something similar but with much better style. Essentially, it seems easier to present things as black and white and to present the other guy as on the black side of that division; when in reality things are perhaps greyer. It would be "reasonable" to delve into those greys and to recognize that both the left and the right have strengths and weaknesses but it would not seems to be "persuasive" concerning most people who like to think in terms of those blacks and whites. It's not to say that one economic system isn't better than another but making the "reasonable" case for why one is better requires a discussion that isn't dramatically persuasive. Anyway, please critique.

renea mac said...

Yes. I totally agree. And as far as Obama and McCain's first debate, I was annoyed with McCain who kept trying to make complex things black and white in order to make Obama look bad. And that's why Obama had to keep correcting him: "No, I voted against it because of this, not because of that. And you know that, John."

But this is how I feel about this level of politics in general: every issue is so complicated I don't really feel like I can make an educated choice. But I'll try anyway.