Thursday, October 09, 2008

US Presidential Debate #2 | BBC News

Obama v McCain in Debate #2
Swing and a miss.

Synopsis: (BBC News) - On paper, the format should have favoured John McCain, who conducts lots of campaign events as town hall meetings, in which he prowls the stage taking questions from anyone who wants to ask one.

In fact, I thought Barack Obama did rather better, measured in manner and clear-minded in content where Mr McCain seemed to spend too much time attempting to score points directly off his rival, with what felt like carefully-rehearsed digs that didn't seem quite to find the mark.

Mr Obama offered a performance reminiscent of a great boxer who knows he is ahead on points and only has to keep dancing backwards around the ring avoiding trouble to win. He didn't land many scoring punches, but then he didn't have to.

Mr McCain, who is now trailing in nearly all the important local and national opinion polls, went into the contest knowing he needed a clear-cut win to change the game.

He duly headed off around the ring on the offensive more than once, but he tended to telegraph his punches and they mostly felt like they missed their target.

At one point he played what is clearly his ace - his relative experience - by saying directly: "There's no time for on-the-job training, my friend."

But in such an intimate forum it felt oddly inappropriate to say it so bluntly - better surely to demonstrate the proposition with a superior grasp of the facts?

Husky sincerity

The problem with reaching back into the briefings and bulletin points for ammunition is, of course, that if you don't deliver pre-prepared material well, it can sound a little odd.

At one point, Mr McCain tried to skewer Mr Obama as a big-spending liberal by claiming he'd once voted for a plan to give $3m of federal money to buy an overhead projector for a planetarium in Chicago. I'm surely not the only viewer who spent the rest of the evening wondering what kind of projector that kind of money buys you.

Mr Obama seemed more relaxed than Mr McCain - partly, no doubt, because he knows the polls show he is heading for victory unless his rival can change the race.

He seemed steady and relaxed and held his natural inclination to the high-flown rhetorical flourish in check.

Mr McCain had gone for a soft note of slightly muted, husky sincerity which briefly made me think of Ronald Reagan's delivery, but mainly sounded like the tone of a children's storyteller with a sore throat.

There were some sharp exchanges of course, when Mr Obama was goaded into trading jabs.

The sharpest came after Mr McCain made the familiar charge that Mr Obama was naive to indicate that in some circumstances he would launch an attack into Pakistan to "get" Osama Bin Laden.

He quoted Teddy Roosevelt's maxim: "Talk softly and carry a big stick."

Mr Obama looked stung, perhaps for the first time in the evening, and replied: "Senator McCain is the man who sang 'Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran' and talked about annihilating North Korea."

Both men's advisers will feel they did competent jobs getting across competing visions of what America should do about health, tax and the economic bail-out package but neither had any surprises - and neither offered undecided voters anything they hadn't seen and heard hundreds of times before.

Barack Obama emerged as the clear winner on the night in Nashville - if only because John McCain needed a game-changing victory on the night and he clearly didn't manage one.

(Source: BBC NEWS | Americas | McCain fails to change the game.)


As noted from the last debate, it irks me when people say a debate was "boring". Clearly you don't understand the subtleties of politics. Hence, why you are probably cynical about politicians and politics in general. You probably get disappointed when a politician answers in non-descript vague terms. For instance, watching the CNN "undecided" voter group, one gentleman said "I'm still not clear what Obama means when he says 'affordable' in terms of lowering health care costs." All I'm thinking is "Mofo get a dictionary. He's not going to give a dollar figure for 'affordable' because affordable for you isn't affordable for me nor would affordable for John McCain be affordable for you. Policies apply to a lot of people, they can only be so specific.

Beyond that this debate further separated the candidates. Barack staying composed and even attempting to specify his policies with mathmatical figures and how they apply to the average citizen. John McCain attempting to play the "naive" game again, but at times seeming lost mentally and physically (notably wandering aimlessly around the stage when not addressed). Again, where the first debate was meant to play to McCain's strengths by dealing with foreign policy as the bulk of the discussion, this debate was supposed to draw upon his strength in "town hall" type settings and providing "straight talk". He came up short again, leaving the third and final formal debate which is also supposed to focus on domestic policy and the economy (even though the past two couldn't help but go there); areas noted as Senator Obama's strengths.

No comments: