Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sideline Observations--The First Presidential Debate

I guess a good starting point is a comment on Senator McCain's vaudevillian pre-debate political theatrics. As Senator Obama reached out to explore a joint, bi-partisan statement encouraging their colleagues to work together with a sense of urgency to address the Wall Street crisis, McCain and his campaign staff calculated how best to use the crisis to their political advantage. The "campaign suspension" never actually occurred and McCain proceeded to interject Presidential politics into an already volatile situation resulting in discord and division.
And what did we learn from the debate itself? One could view it as a micrososm of the candidates' differing political styles. McCain communicated a disdain for his opponent as he took every opportunity to attack and belittle Obama. Senator Obama, on the other hand, presented a calm, confident demeanor demonstrating his firm grasp of the relevant facts and voicing cogent arguments for how best to move the country forward in addressing serious financial and foreign policy issues. Much has been made of the fact that Obama "agreed with" McCain on numerous points. From my vantage point, he was merely exhibiting the bi-partisan, collaborative approach which is his forte and which is so desperately needed if we are going to be able to break the Washington gridlock which has stymied our political representatives and frustrated the citizens whose values and issues they purport to champion.
And a final point or two...Why did the moderator and Senator Obama give McCain a pass on the issues of torture? He had maintained a principled stand throughout most of the Republican primary debates and then reversed himself last February by voting against a bill to curtail the CIA's use of harsh interrogation tactics. And does anyone honestly believe that a provocative, saber-rattling President McCain who has "looked into the eyes of Putin and seen 3 letters--KGB" would be able to deal effectively with a resurgent Russia or that after joking about "bomb-bombing Iran" he is the leader to deal with that nation and the overall complexities of a Mideast foreign policy.
My overall takeaway from the debate--Senator Obama held his own, counter-punched effectively and exuded a Presidential calmness and breadth of knowledge of national and international issues and an understanding of the importance of of reviving and enhancing collaborative relationships with key allies. Senator McCain, on the other hand, appeared petulant, demeaning, provocative and dangerously out-of-touch and ill-equipped to deal with with the complex foreign policy and financial issues we face.

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