September 27, 2008 [LINK / comment]
McCain holds his own vs. Obama
With all the last-minute shuffling in connection with the negotiations over President Bush's proposed big bank bailout, I was afraid that John McCain might not be at his best during last night's "debate."* Fortunately, McCain rose to the occasion, showing a solid command of a wide range of issues and poking holes in Obama's vision of utopia. There were a few awkward moments, such as when McCain talked about the fallen soldier's bracelet he wears, and Obama came back with a sharp rejoinder. McCain occasionally seemed a little uneasy, but for the most part his poise and dignified demeanor were very reassuring, especially in nerve-wracking times like these.
For his part, Obama came across as a little aloof or even smart-alecky, I thought. He avoided making any obnoxious put-downs, which is hard for elitists like him. Nevertheless, he still needs to work on his skills in communicating with average people.
As the Washington Post noted, both candidates support the general idea of a large-scale bailout of the U.S. banking system. It's too bad that such a vital national issue didn't elicit more clash of ideas. Likewise, both candidates took a hardline stance on preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons (easier said than done) and on confronting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The question of exactly how hard to pressure Pakistan to cooperate in our war against the Islamic extremists was one of the most interesting parts of the debate.
Even though McCain came out ahead, he needs to do better next time to regain the momentum, now that the excitement over Gov. Sarah Palin has passed. Doubts about Sarah Palin's readiness to serve could cost him a percentage point or two. For a strikingly civil, thoughtful exchange of views on the debate, see The Mud Pit. Here's what I wrote:
McCain was better prepared and spoke more forcefully than I had expected, given the chaos of this past week. True, he did pull his rhetorical punches a couple times when Obama left himself wide open, but he got some good shots, showing a strong command of the issues and detailed knowledge. Both he and Obama wasted time arguing over numbers. I was surprised that Obama came across as so hesitant. I expected him to be ready with a bunch of juicy "gotcha" one-liners, but likewise he held back. I guess they are both getting a feel for each other in preparation for later debates.
As usual, the Saturday Night Live parody version of the debate was hilarious, making fun of both candidates' foibles.
* Those modern-day question-and-answer sessions do not qualify as true debates; see National Forensic League.