Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain wins but did anyone notice?

My reaction to the debate is that McCain owned Obama on foreign policy. On that issue, the thing was an old fashioned rout. There were times at which Obama hinted at a good job of defending a less muscular - a European - foreign policy, but didn't extend the argument. I suspect he knows that he's got the votes of people who believe in that type of thing and, historically, it's a tough stance from which to win a federal election.

So he tried to talk tough, but was waxed. His position on Iraq is incoherent. When the war was going badly, he wanted, notwithstanding the consequences, to bail, arguing that victory was not possible. Now that he can no longer argue that victory is not possible, he still wants to bail because, near as I can tell, he thinks we should have left Saddam in power and he wants to use the money elsewhere. What he doesn't understand (as McCain repeatedly put it) is that defeat in Iraq would destabilize the middle east and embolden al-Qaeda and its allies who chose to make Iraq a battleground. Even the Iraq Study Group recognized that. To try and change that subject by saying that the war should not have been fought in the first place is senseless. Neither John McCain or Barack Obama get to change that decision.

(And,of course, if we manage to establish a friendly Muslim democracy in the middle east, the war will have accomplished something extremely important.)


On Iran, he seemed to want to run away from his earlier willingness to engage in Presidential-level negotiations without preconditions, suggesting that wasn't what he meant. But he couldn't quite bring himself to make that clear.

All of this effects the way in which his position on Afghanistan came across. Does anyone really believe that Barack Obama will follow bin Laden into his cave? McCain underscored his advantage by chiding Obama for his statement that he would invade Afghanistan. ("You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things ....")

But will this help McCain in the polls? One view is that Obama simply needed to avoid embarrassment. He needed to avoid a moment that could be easily spun into a harmful post-debate narrative. I think he did that - particularly in light of the fact that, given the friendly press, an Obama gaffe or McCain knockout would have to be very obvious. He knows that, if this becomes a foreign policy election, he's not going to win and one way to prevent it from being a foreign policy election is to avoid a bad mistake. That was accomplished and I think early responses reflect that.

There are, I think, reasons to be very concerned about an Obama presidency in the international realm but that is tough case to make to voters who do not attend to such matters and are, in any event, more focused on the economy.

21 comments:

Dad29 said...

The election will be won or lost on pocketbood issues, not on caves in Afghanistan.

For that reason, it was interesting that Lehhhruuh opened by declaring that 'the economic situation' was part of foreign policy.

O will clean McCain's clock on economics unless McCain is able to establish profligacy as an evil (which it is, of course...)

Jimi5150 said...

Don't know that I agree. McCain has been in Washington long enough to know what's going on. Plus, we know he had concerns about our current situation some time ago.He's no dummy. He'll hammer Obama on earmarks. He'll hammer Obama on taxes and the growth of washington under an Obama regime. If he's reeeeally smart, he'll hammer him on the cost of all of his programs and that washngton can't be expected to fix everything . . . liberal entitlement stuff. I'm sure he will. But, he also needs to hammer Obama on the failed policies of this congress, as well as how the Clinton years actually got us to this point.

Anyway, I wouldn't count him out. What I like about John is that he can appear rather snarky when making certain comments about Obama. I'm sure some see it as a bit of a negative. I think it's hilarious. It's gotta bug Barry big time.

matt said...

I presume you wrote your post before the debate and watched the Brewers instead.

Apparently you didn't notice McCain was pretty much a jerk and has deep concerns about the height of North Koreans (is he aware he's kind of short too). However, to keep saying Obama doesn't understand things he clearly understands suggests perhaps McCain believes he's not explaining himself well.

And when you're in a debate you gotta at least look at the other guy once in a while so people don't think you're a robot.

You wanna have a beer with that guy? He's the guy in the corner talking to himself, and then he hits you in the head with the bottle.

Palin's hot though.

Jay Bullock said...

(And,of course, if we manage to establish a friendly Muslim democracy in the middle east, the war will have accomplished something extremely important.)
And then we would ALL get a pony!

At this point, a US exit without a full-blown civil war would be a miracle. Anyone who thinks--or dreams--otherwise is not being realistic on foreign policy and probably shouldn't be commanding our troops.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering what the Kos types think about Obama's sabre rattling re Afganistan. I presume they believe that he's got to appear tough, and that Obama is not sincere about any foreign intervention. Otherwise, I would think they would be all over him...

Anonymous said...

During the foreign policy part of the debate, Obama acted like a petulant man-child. He knew that he was getting a good old-fashioned butt-kicking. The split screen showed him making faces, trying to talk over McCain. Obama was really angry and having a minor temper tantrum.
When asked one question about foreign policy, Obama responded by telling us how much Joe Biden knows about that issue. Is Joe Biden Obama's foreign policy credential? Does he plan on placing that "3 a.m. call" on hold while he transfers it to Biden?
He also misstated Kissinger's foreign policy, who in turn, wasted no time in releasing a statement to fix the record. Kissinger made it crystal clear that he agrees with McCain and does not think it is a good idea to sit down and talk with Iran at the presidential level.

Anonymous said...

Where was McCain last night when the negotiators were meeting in DC to hammer out the deal announced overnight? I didn't see him in the video running on the news this morning.

Remember that McCain "halted" his campaign midweek last week and tried to call off the debate in order to "return immediately" to DC and help cut the deal. How did that work out?

It has worked out about as well as his pick of the "Hick from Wasilla" who is apparently less qualified than your pet ferret, Rick, to serve as Vice President!

Anonymous said...

Rick's comments (and others?) are a good demonstration that once one has committed to a candidate, then one's evaluation of evidence for or against one's candidate cannot be objectively evaluated.

I think that neither candidate "won" the debate in any meaningful way. If McCain "won" but no one noticed then McCain most certainly did not "win". The only value to these debates is how the undecided evaluate them, and if they didn't notice McCain's "win" then McCain failed.

I think there was a revealing exchange between the candidates, and no clear "winner".

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Another comment related to the inability of partisans to evaluate the debate:

http://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2008/09/25/what-we-need-is-red-and-blue-face-paint/

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Every time I listen to Obama, it appears to me that he's trying to give me a load of B.S...

I'm not in love with McCain but I find him to be more believable.

reddess said...

When did we get a pet ferret?

Anonymous said...

My sense is that McCain is a recovering Maverick who's still fighting the Cold War. He's honorable and out-of-date.

Obama may not have McCain's experience but experience is a handicap when it's out-of-date experience. Obama has a better feel for the modern world.

Obama is not perfect, but I think he's the best of the two.

sean s.

Dad29 said...

When did we get a pet ferret?

Rick didn't tell you?

Maybe it's still in the trunk of your car?

reddess said...

dad

That's what that smell is. I thought Rick forgot to shower again.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read your fawning assessment of Palin's "win" come Friday. I imagine you'll be disappointed that Biden didn't show her enough deference.

Anonymous said...

Does Wife #1 have custody of the ferret?

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Sean S. said,

"Rick's comments (and others?) are a good demonstration that once one has committed to a candidate, then one's evaluation of evidence for or against one's candidate cannot be objectively evaluated."

Bingo. Rick, aside from McCain keeling over and dying on stage, I don't think there was any conceivable scenario in which you'd grant Obama a victory.

The same for Bullock or any other left-leaning Partisan. If Obama lept off the stage and stabbed Lehrer, people like him would be lauding his aggressiveness.

Yawn.

Anonymous said...

McCain wins???? You must have received your talking points from the White House.

reddess said...

anon 6:42

Congratulations! A new line - and a funny one to boot. I am proud of you for taking the risk.

Thanks for the chuckle.

reddess said...

anon 9:16

The white house? Oh get real.

They were Fed Ex'ed to us by Sean Hannity.

Anonymous said...

Reddess. . .yes, and where do you think Hannity gets them? By the way, still think Palin is "Saramerica"?