What debate #2 essentially boiled down to was a collection of attempted jabs, no haymakers, no whipping out any of the stuff referenced in the campaign ads recently. (Which is a shame, because there were a couple of opportunities Barack Obama ceded to whack John McCain on the Keating Five and its connection to current economics.) However, Obama’s jabs were better, and more adept — such as the one in the video above on foreign policy and “not understanding.” McCain’s rhetoric didn’t change dramatically from debate #1 — in fact, neither candidate varied too much from that script save the zingers — and he was the one who needed to up the ante, bring something new to the table.
Unfortunately, barring massive errata on Obama’s part between now and a week from today, we’ll be talking about how Obama is simply “that one” to him.
The funny thing going in is the town hall format is supposed to McCain’s best — and he did seem more at ease, willing to pal and joke around, although I put the “my friend/s” count at 30, and if you play a drinking game to that, you’d be dead halfway through, and the majority of McCain’s references, seem, well, a bit out of touch. But, he looked stilted (and we can chalk some of this up to age and injuries suffered in his POW days) and stuck to the same rhetorical themes, so much so on economic policy that you wonder if his campaign hands him and Sarah Palin the exact same script with a few different tweaks.
Obama gets the benefit of any ties — essentially, this is a rather dull affair overall — because he sat back and let the punches come towards him before countering on foreign policy, and the particularly effective jab on McCain’s health care proposals. I am never confident enough to say “this one is over,” but I don’t know where McCain made up any ground, because whenever he tried to instill doubt in Obama, he did so in himself as well. Referring to yourself as a “cool hand” when you have a record of impulsive behavior (including your VP pick) and savaging Obama for the “speaking loudly” on Pakistan when you do so on Iraq and Russian actions towards Georgia shows a complete lack of cognitive dissonance.
Things I am rather tired of coming out of the mouths of these two:
- Good old American exceptionalism. Sadly, this will not fucking die: we must be the beacon on the hill, we have the impetus to go after and invade countries. McCain is the bigger talker when it comes to this stuff, but Obama, being an American politician, is not immune.
- Will no one press either of them on the War on Drugs?
- Neither candidate, thanks to Walter Mondale’s 1984 tank job, will ever admit to Americans what they have to give up or may have to pay more in taxes to get the government back on track. In bad economic times, we deserve a bit more honesty, but politicians know better than that.
Also, we’d like to tell Tom Brokaw to suck it. I know the candidates agreed to the format, but it was awfully confining. Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, and now Brokaw — all underwhelming moderators, with some stinker questions and/or an inability or unwilligness to ask good follow-ups. Hell, I know local reps from the League of Women Voters who could do better jobs moderating than this. Get a general host to introduce, then turn it over to th LWV moderator. Anything for better questions.