My Impressions of the First Debate - Calling Obama's Bluff

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When I set the poll last night, I said I'd hold off on my comments until later. Here they are.

I can see why some people are saying Obama won. He sounded good. He seemed to make sense on a certain level. Unfortunately for him, this is the level of the people who pay attention to politics when there's something that twinges their conscience that they don't pay more attention. Because for the people who understand the facts and the history and how it all fits together, he got stomped.

He spent the whole debate running a very convincing bluff, that when you come right down to it, boiled down to his stump speech talking points. Senator Obama, your opponent is named "John McCain," not "George Bush," who is never running for anything else again. Furthermore, while trying to tie your opponent to a president that your party has been demonizing since the election of 2000 may be a winning strategy in certain instances (it did help George Bush in 2000, but not John Kerry in 2004), John McCain has separated himself very well from George Bush, at least to anyone who's been paying attention. Immigration, the surge in Iraq, fiscal policy on all levels, even the role of government (he being more of a conservative than George Bush ever was)

Senator Obama was woefully short not only on facts, but on truth, as well. Dr. Kissinger refuted Mr. Obama's contention about his position on talks with Iran before the talking heads were done. It wasn't George Bush's policies that caused the housing crisis, it was Bill Clinton's. When George Bush tried to reform the problem areas back in 2003, and John McCain in 2005, it was the Democratic party who made it clear they would kill the legislation in the Senate, making the whole thing pointless. The Democrats (including Barack Obama) demogogued the issue, claiming it was racial prejudice and class warfare, that those attempting reform didn't want poor people and minorities to be homeowners, using these as cover issues to prevent the change needed, which was simply to tighten the rules up so that there was some reason to believe that the folks buying and refinancing could really afford the payments. (This is remarkably similar to the way they have demogogued Social Security and Medicare reform). In short, George Bush inherited a system that he tried to change when he saw these problems five years ago, and he was prevented from changing it by the Democrats. Sure, he could have tried harder, but he only had so much political capital to spend, and the War on Terror has to be a higher priority for that. But this was not in any way, shape, or form George Bush's problem. It was Bill Clinton's, and George Bush tried to fix it and was prevented by the party that has been demonizing him for failing to fix it.

For those who pay attention (sadly, not as many as there should be, particularly among the young), John McCain more than held his own in the economic policy debate. He proposed specific ideas and concrete proposals. When Jim Lehrer asked Barack Obama what he would cut because of the bail-out, he segued into new program proposals straight off his stump speech. That's like being told it's a subtraction problem, and adding instead.

Senator McCain blew Senator Obama out of the water on foreign policy. From Georgia to Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and North Korea, it was obvious who was used to handling this stuff, and who wasn't. Who understands what is still The Great Game, and who does not. The difference in their grasp of international politics should have embarrassed Senator Obama. I'll give him credit for acting ability, though. He kept running a good bluff, and even had the grace to agree with Senator McCain in about half a dozen instances when he knew anything else he said would get him stomped so badly it would destroy his bluff.

Senator McCain did manage to partially call Obama's bluff on energy policy. You can't have nuclear power without storing spent fuel and reprocessing it. But if Yucca Mountain (which Obama has repeatedly opposed), which all of the experts have agreed is the best possible available location for those, is not a good site, then there are no sites available, which reduces to being against nuclear energy.

John McCain does need to work on delivery, and he did let several opportunities to further tear apart Obama. Thinking about it, though, it's probably just as well he let most of the opportunities pass that he did. He was so far ahead that anything more would have been piling on.

The more I know about Barack Obama and his policies, the less impressive his substance becomes. He's got style, he's smooth, and he's got beautiful oration - a lot like Ronald Reagan in those respects. But underneath all that, Ronald Reagan had substance - more substance in a hangnail than Barack Obama has in his whole body. Last night, Barack Obama ran a good, coherent bluff - but John McCain had the winning hand, and didn't fold. It may not be obvious now, especially to committed Obamaphiles (When I visited the conservative websites last night, they were talking specifics, and the comments were jubilant. When I visited progressive ones, they were directing their audience to the polls they had to manipulate, and the comments were bitter), but Obama gave the McCain campaign so much ammunition for campaign commercials that those quotes which are going to come back to haunt him all the way through November 4th. There is material for about fifty ads on a theme of, "What does Barack Obama really stand for?" What he said in the debate, versus what he said in front of partisan audiences. Put about fifty of them out there, and even some of the nutroots will start to wonder.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on September 27, 2008 11:00 AM.

2008 Presidential Debate 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

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