Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Town Hall Debate: McCain Fails to Deliver

When I noticed yesterday that the Democratic National Committee was pointing out how John McCain is said to excel at town hall style debates, it was obvious that McCain needed to deliver big time last night. When I watched the debate this morning (I was too busy getting my ass kicked at basketball to watch it live), it was clear that not only did McCain not deliver, he came off as awkward and disrespectful. Both candidates stretched the truth (McCain a bit more than Obama, in my opinion), but in the end McCain looked like the loser (and numerous polls conducted following the debate confirmed this).

To begin with, McCain's use of the term "my friends" needs to stop. It is a lame attempt to be folksy and seem like "one of us." It does not work and once you notice it, the effect is akin to a professor who says "like" or "umm" a lot: you begin to become hyper-sensitive to it, and hearing it so often begins to annoy you beyond words. For last night's debate, I counted 18 "my friends" uttered by McCain, and I may have missed one or two. Palin has more folksy cred than McCain, given that she comes from a rural area and has no experience in Washington.

The other logistical thing about last night that annoyed me was both candidates' lack of heeding to the allotted time for their responses. As a viewer, you can see the green, yellow, and red lights they use for the candidates to know when to stop talking. I noticed it in the beginning with McCain, but Obama made up for it later in the debate by running well over time on numerous occasions.

I could go into the amount of lies told by both candidates, but has a pretty good overview of it and I highly suggest that you check it out. Some things not mentioned in the FactCheck article were the following: McCain saying that he can solve the energy problem, the health care problem, and the entitlement problem at the same time (saying that Social Security was easy to fix, and Medicare was not that much harder), saying Reagan was his hero, then on the next question saying that Teddy Roosevelt was his hero, and claiming that the Taliban "came back" into Afghanistan following the abandonment of the mujahideen "freedom fighters" by the U.S. (despite the fact that while mujahideen warlords may have been targeted by the Taliban, many of the Taliban were comprised of mujahideen fighters who fought off the Soviets in the 1980s with heavy assistance from the U.S. and Pakistan).

The main issue I had with McCain at the debate was his highly disrespectful attitude. Clearly the one sticking point that many have pointed out was when McCain referred to Obama as "that one" while turning has back to him and pointing. While you can easily make the argument that this is a xenophobic, if not somewhat racist, remark, the overall fact is that it is disrespectful. I cannot imagine how being called "that one" can be construed as being respectful, or at the very least as on the same plane of "him" or "he" or any other male pronoun used to refer to a third person. In addition to this, I noticed that McCain walked around a lot while Obama was talking, whereas Obama sat and intently listened to McCain's answers. I don't know if this is because McCain had ants in his pants or was trying to distract people from Obama's answers, but I found it rude. When someone else is talking in a town hall format, it is common courtesy to sit still and remain quiet out of respect, at least in my mind.

Finally McCain's jokes. He has a history of some zingers (most notably his "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly - because Janet Reno is her father" joke), but he fell flat on every joke he tried to tell. First was his hair transplant joke when he talked about "Cadillac" health plans in which cosmetic procedures like hair transplants are covered. He quipped that he might be in need of one (in case the sub-par combover did not alert you to that fact). I thought that while self-deprecating jokes are legitimate, pointing out one's age when it seems to be a concern for some voters might not be the smartest thing to do in a debate so close to Election Day. There was also an interjection by McCain when he interrupted Brokaw after an Obama reply, saying "Did we hear the size of the fine?" referring to the non-existent fine that would be levied on parents and small businesses who do not insure their children or employees under Obama's health care plan. Obama had said that there was no fine in the plan, but this did not stop McCain. And finally McCain tried to take some praise from Obama when the latter was talking about the former's portrayal of Obama as brash while McCain was calm. McCain quipped "Thank you" and began to awkwardly laugh, and then Obama finished his thought and referred to the time that McCain had sung the song "Bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" and when McCain had yelled to a bunch of American servicemen on January 2, 2002 (more than a year before the invasion of Iraq by American forces), "Next up, Baghdad!"

If you look carefully at McCain's face during the debate when Obama says the "Bomb Iran" and Baghdad comments, it goes from one of laughter to absolute glum. It reminds me of when a young child is laughing and then falls or is scared senseless and there is a moment right before he begins to ball his eyes out: that's what McCain's face looked like. McCain countered by saying that he was joking with a fellow veteran about bombing Iran. Apparently he thinks it is funny.

All in all, a relatively lackluster debate. It did not get interesting until Obama turned the whole "I do not understand" thing around on McCain, saying that he did not understand how we could invade a country that had absolutely nothing to with 9/11. This was the turning point, in my opinion, of the debate and it had Obama on the offensive against McCain and it is what ultimately framed the debate. As the polls say, Obama won, and it will probably only increase his lead with less than a month to go before that first Tuesday in November. McCain and Palin will probably try to come out with increasingly negative smears against Obama in an effort to salvage their campaign, but I am leaning toward predicting it will not work. Of course, this is American politics and you never know what could happen. Peace.

Photos - McCain and Obama at the debate (, McCain and Obama again (, Obama talking and McCain walking around (

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