Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Calm Beside The Storm: the Last Presidential Debate

A fundamental principle of aikido: When you launch an attack, you expose your weakness.
  • Thrust with a spear, and you open your side to counterthrust
  • Invade Iraq, and you cannot hold the Afghan countryside
  • Bring up Ayers, and you invite Obama to talk about the many old-school, irreproachable Republicans that Obama worked with on that same board.
McCain still doesn't know what hit him, because basically he hit himself. McCain got all stormy and mad; Obama calmly put him away.


Every Picture Tells The Story

Turn down the sound, and you saw the basics of the debate. Obama does not have a pretty face; he's gangly (for the love of God, will someone get him a sandwich?) But he's calm, professional, reassuring like a doctor.

McCain looks angry when he's saying "hello!"

Who do you want driving the bus: The calm guy, who thinks it over before making a decision? Or the angry guy, who's just one horn-tap away from epic road rage?


Attack My Opponent's VP? No, thanks!

The moderator asked a clever question: compare your VP pick to the other guy's.

Factually, Obama gave some great reasons why Biden's a good pick and would make a fine president if (God forbid) it was needed. But, more importantly, he refused to attack Palin, saying basically: "The voters will decide that."

This worked on two levels. As a pure matter of salesmanship, you don't always want to tell people what to think. People who draw conclusions on their own are more likely to stick with them than people who are told what to think. Obama's confident that if he lets people draw their own conclusion about Palin, it'll be to his advantage.

But on a higher level, this was another chance to show: Obama really is a uniter, not a divider. He refused to attack the opposition.

McCain made the foolish error of attacking Joe Biden. This was a complete waste of time; no-one is going to vote for McCain because they don't like Biden; if they don't like Biden, they already didn't like Obama and they're in McCain's bag.

In attacking Biden, McCain called Biden's thoughts on it "cockamamie" ... an insult from the 1950s. Does it help McCain to remind people that his thinking dates back to before they were born? Also, thoughtful people will realize that Kurdistan is ALREADY basically independent; the Kurds will never again put themselves under the control of Baghdad. They're just not that stupid. In other words, the Biden plan simply recognizes the obvious; McCain's love for lines on a map drawn up by the British Empire won him no votes among the thoughtful.


"Women's Health? Who cares!"

The Roe v. Wade question could not go well at all for McCain; this is one area where most of America doesn't want change.

The people who do want Roe reversed already heard McCain's attacks on Obama, and by renewing his attack, McCain gave him another chance to answer them calmly. One of the best lines of the night was Obama's "If it sounds incredible ... it's because it's not true."

In other words, McCain invited Obama to call him a liar, and Obama obliged in the nicest possible way. Thanks John! Obama didn't even have to bring up McCain's flipflops on Roe.

Then McCain did what he could to make a bad position worse; he ended his discussion by disparaging the very idea of the health of women ... with "finger quotes". Was that merely callous or outright stupid?


Personal Attacks: "Who cares?" vs. "I'm Angry!"

The moderator brought up personal attacks, and McCain took the bait. After disclaiming crazy people in his audience (...I wonder if they'll still vote for him...) he completely ignored Palin's personal attacks on Obama and started complaining about something someone said about him being too nasty.

This did give Obama a chance to discuss the issue in measured tones, and McCain came out the worse. Most people agree that the nastiness has gone too far, and it really wasn't smart for McCain to give Obama talk it over in the context of a third party's impression of McCain.

But them, Obama hit it out of the park by refusing to counter attack.

I really wanted Obama to bring up all the nasty personal stuff said by McCain, Palin and their ads. It was not at all emotionally satisfying for him simply to point out factually that all of McCain's recent ads are negative. I wanted him to explain the difference between ads attacking policies versus those attacking the person.

That would have pleased me, and it would have put everyone else to sleep for sure! Instead we got
"We all have hurt feelings, but America doesn't want to hear about that; we need to talk about issues."

At one stroke, Obama called McCain a whiner, in a way that all American had to agree with. We all want to hear about the issues, not about the hurt feelings of the candidate.


Twelve Angry McCains

McCain did have one prepared line that could've been pretty good: "I'm not George Bush"

But he blew it by delivering it angrily.

John, you won't listen, but here's some advice. You already have the votes of people who like angry guys. You need some others.

That line could've been delivered, oh, so many ways. Channeling Cyrano de Bergerac, McCain could've delivered the same line, oh, so many ways:

  • John Wayne: "I'm not George Bush. He's from Texas, I'm from Arizona."
  • Sally Fields: "I'm not George Bush; people like me, they really like me!"
  • Jack Nicholson As The Joker: "I'm not George Bush. Wait till they get a load of me!"
  • Heath Ledger As The Joker: "You see, I'm not George Bush. I'm just ahead of the curve."
  • Gandhi "You must be the George Bush you want to see in the world"
  • JFK: "Ask not what our country can do to George Bush; ask rather what our country can do for me!"
  • JFK (again): "Ich Bein Ein Not George Bush!"
  • The Family Circus: "Not Me!"
  • Pontius Pilate: "I wash my hands of this George Bush. Away with him!"
  • FDR: "The only thing we have to fear is George Bush himself!"
  • Pig Latin: "Ix-nay on the Orge-Gay Ush-Bay!"
  • Or maybe like George Bush himself: "I'm not George Bush; I'm a uniter, not a divider!"

But no. McCain chose to deliver his only good line as an Angry Man.

This let Obama come back cooly: "If I mistake you for George Bush, it's because your policies are the same as his."

Attack/Counterattack. McCain falls again.


Who's the Maverick?

The unintentionally funniest part of the debate is where McCain challenged Obama to come up with any instances in which he'd gone against the leadership of his party.

Obama then reeled off at least three: charter schools, etc.

I didn't like his answer; I opposed him in the primary because of stuff like that, and here he is, bringing it up again!

Then I realized: Obama is annoying me because Obama is really a maverick. OMG!

McCain had no comeback; he just repeated his line as if he hadn't heard a word.

Comedy Gold!

digg story

Urban Swirl's take on McCain's anger

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