Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Thread: First 2008 Presidential Debate

10:39pm: Alright, I'm retreating to the Electoral College lair to think about this one for a while.

10:37pm: And there's the handshake. That's a wrap.

10:34pm: McCain: Obama's stubbornness on the surge is akin to the Bush administration on other issues. I'm surprised that "he doesn't get it" hasn't made an appearance tonight...from either side.

10:33pm: Obama: Economic crisis is a national security issue.

10:32pm: Ooh, extra time.

10:31pm: I've been thinking about calling this a forgettable debate, but the Obama doesn't understand stuff proves that if you say something enough...

10:27pm: I'm not sure about this "reaching across the aisle" stuff from McCain. Have the last few days taught us nothing? What will he be able to reach across the aisle to do if he's elected?

10:25pm: Last question. Let's put it this way: There won't be a lot of back and forth on this one.

10:22pm: Obama from Russian oil fueling their government to alternative energy here in the US.

10:18pm: McCain continues to play the experience card. Now on Russia. Again, "I've been there," on Georgia.

10:12pm: "I'm not going to set the White House schedule. I don't even have a seal yet." Good one.

10:09pm: Is Obama's ability to pronounce these foreign names a good thing or a bad thing?
Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. It is an interesting contrast between the two candidates, especially after McCain's issues getting Ahmadinejad out. How does that play into the Obama is a Muslim narrative.

10:08pm: Sitting down with leaders without pre-conditions. There's a blast from the past.

10:03pm: On to Iran.

10:00pm: Ugh, if you are going to add a personal story, you better know the name. McCain nailed his. Sure, it was the same one he's brought up in his acceptance speech, but still. Obama did not.

9:57pm: I think this not understanding thing has been talked about within the McCain campaign. Now on Pakistan, pre-Musharraf.

9:54pm: More on Obama not understanding from McCain. This time on Waziristan and Al Qeada.

9:45pm: McCain: "Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy." That one could bring some fireworks along the way.

9:40pm: McCain's on firmer ground on the surge.

On Guantanamo Bay? Mr. McCain, John Kerry is on the phone. He was against torture, before he was against for it.

9:34pm: Jim Lehrer is winning this debate so far. He's by far the most animated.

...trying to get either candidate to answer a question on scaled back spending in the face of the current economic climate.

9:33pm: "Using a hatchet where a scalpel is needed." A good line from Obama on a government spending freeze.

9:29pm: Ah, there's the first "most liberal senator" mention.

9:26pm: They've both warmed to this format now.

A lot of hand-raising from Obama on these McCain points on earmarks. Not Horshack-style hand-raising, but there's a pattern here on these split screens.

9:16 pm: Ooh, there's the first split screen (...on NBC). No sighing, no eye-rolling, just McCain writing at the moment.

Jim Lehrer is trying to turn this into a town hall meeting-lite. This is kind of weird. But the difference from four years ago is stark.

Shredding regulations. We may be hearing that lot from Obama. That's twice.

We are about fifteen minutes from go-time everyone. Elton John would have us believe that Saturday night's alright for fighting. We'll Friday night is fine by me, actually. And given the events of this week, we could see a real good one tonight.

First a quick review:
1) First debates are the most watched debates of any cycle.

2) Sit down debates are typically boring, highlighted by muted body language. Think Cheney-Lieberman. Well, that's an exaggeration.
Those look like podiums. I stand corrected.

3) If we can, let's try to get a variety to mediums represented here. Someone on C-SPAN, someone on the one of the major networks, someone online, etc. The first debate in 2004 had some different feeds floating around. C-SPAN had the non-speaking candidate's reactions at times, while most of the networks kept the camera trained on the speaker. The result was that people took away different impressions of the debate. Let's try to keep tabs on that tonight. I think I'm going to be on C-SPAN.

So we should have a lot of bored people watching tonight. I won't be one of them. So, turn on the set, open up a comment box and off we go.

Recent Posts:
Who You Callin' Underpolled?

Nothing to see here, folks.

The Electoral College Map (9/26/08)


Jack said...

I can only see this from blatantly partisan eyes, and that says McCain was wrong on anything. Particularly this cutting spending stuff. In a recession, I thought the theory is that you increase spending to stimulate the economy.

And he was really simplistic on everything. The economy, as I mentioned, but also foreign policy. He said SDI brought down the Soviet Union - I'm not old enough to remember, but there was certainly far more to it than SDI. On Russia and Georgia, he also stuck to his simplistic worldview of good guys vs. bad guys. To me, a guy who is supposed to be a foreign policy expert should show a little more nuance.

I thought Obama let McCain control the pace a bit. For example, there was one point where when Lehrer was trying to move on to the next question, McCain went ahead and made a rather long point. When Obama wanted to counter and Lehrer said something, Obama basically conceded the point. But I didn't really see the whole thing - our house alarm went off a couple of times - nothing wrong, though, but it was a distraction.

I thought the "not understanding" angle was a clever one. I forget why, but during the debate it just seemed an effective phrase.

I liked Obama not equivocating on the "without preconditions" stuff. Thought he could have been a little bit more effective but not bad.

Sorry if my thoughts are incoherent - the debate kinda put my to sleep.

SarahLawrenceScott said...

I am old enough to remember, and as I recall SDI really was the straw that broke the camel's back.

In general, the two candidates were true to form. Obama is willing to take punches if it keeps his brand intact. Critics will say he was cool, aloof, maybe even a little condescending. Well, yeah, but that's not disqualifying. Obama called McCain "John" many times...did McCain every address Obama directly?

The new McCain emphasis on "I've been there" for a whole list of foreign countries sounds uncomfortably like "I can see Russia from my house" to me, while still completely undermining Palin, who hasn't been there.

Overall, I'd guess this will be seen as a narrow win for Obama in a basically boring debate. That's a good result for McCain, given the lead-up to this debate, and the expectations it will set for the next debates. Still, Obama is on the verge of being way ahead in the election right now, and this debate isn't going to change that.

cbsmith42 said...

"Is Obama's ability to pronounce these foreign names a good thing or a bad thing? Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. It is an interesting contrast between the two candidates, especially after McCain's issues getting Ahmadinejad out. How does that play into the Obama is a Muslim narrative."

Boo. I expected better from this site than to keep this particular, tired discussion alive. Must have truly found the debate boring. I expect better from a professor of Political Science... perhaps the country is better served by keeping the discussion from being limited to rumors and trivial matters rather than harping on them.

Jack said...

I was told by someone else that remembers - and is a big Reagan fan - that SDI wasn't quite the primary factor. But that's just an aside.

As for the Muslim thing, I don't really think that pronouncing names well does anything. I'm pretty sure that anyone who will believe Obama is a Muslim already believes it and isn't about to be swayed. Polling on that I believe has not changed much. Maybe a few more people will be converted but not by pronouncing Pakistan a certain way.

cbsmith42 said...

I just get tired of the nonsense and this is directed not at Jack or the site, but pronouncing names correctly is respectful.

The alternative is for us all to say 'aboo garub' as the current president does just to show that we're not 'sympathizers.'

Not showing respect to people has serious implications on foreign policy. Insinuating that it is more correct to mispronounce something is akin to saying that students should all strive to be C students so as not to stand out from the crowd.

I'll let it go now... promise :)

Jack said...

cbsmith: Just want to reassure you that I did not take anything you said as directed towards me.

And I do think there is some attitude of "saying that students should all strive to be C students," or rather that all politicians should have been C students in school to prove they're not one of those evil intellectual elites that know more than the average person.

Josh Putnam said...

Let provide a little context on that statement. [Context or not, I think Jack nailed it when he said that opinions have likely formed on this particular issue. Like Iraq's "connection" to 9-11 proved, once these types of opinions are formed, they are difficult to alter.]. For starters, I've probably heard Obama say each of those words a hundred times, but the effect of them being uttered in such close proximity got my attention. Yes, the "Obama is a Muslim" narrative that exists is tired. It has played out. And that probably wasn't the best way of couching it.

But I do think that the "Obama is foreign/exotic" narrative is much more powerful simply because it can encompass more. As the memos and other communications that leaked from the Clinton campaign showed, this was a way they considered countering Obama in the Democratic primary campaign.

But does the way words are pronounced even matter in debates? In fairness, McCain did flawlessly reel off several "foreign" words during the Russia discussion after flubbing Ahmadinejad's name. [And yes, I too thought of the many pronunciations of Abu Ghraib.]. But that doesn't play into any pre-existing narrative in the way it does in Obama's situation. But back to my question, does pronunciation matter or for that matter any of these small things in debates. They are seemingly silly instances, but at the same time they either, as I've said, play into a narrative (as was the case with the several faces of Al Gore during 2000) or they serve as proxies for much larger, broader concepts (such as Bush checking his watch in the 1992 town hall debate being a sign that he was above process).

So, short story long, I don't think this aspect of the debate has legs. It just got my attention. This debate will be remembered (if it is remembered at all in the long term) for McCain's "understanding" line of attack. And Jack, I agree, I think McCain dictated the pace last night.