Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Obama Wins the Second Debate

ACTUALLY, Barack Obama ran away with it. The biggest reason? John McCain looked really, really old. His aides always claim that the town hall format suits his conversational style the best. But last night, he ambled around aimlessly on the floor of the arena and looked crotchety and infirm. There was no podium to hide his broken down body. On the other hand, Barack Obama owned the arena with his physical fluency and graceful presence. One was a challenger; the other, an incumbent.

McCain didn't even get close.

Substance mattered little. Few of the questions Tom Brokaw chose to ask the candidates were unoriginal and a bit insulting. Why bother picking the same foreign policy questions we heard answers to at the first debate? Did he think either candidate was going to change his position on Iran, Israel, Russia, Iraq, or Pakistan in two weeks?

But back to demeanor. McCain couldn't quite look in the eye a Black man from the audience who asked him a question. McCain condescended to him with a "you probably never even heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," and when the man raised his eyebrows as if to say, "get out of my face," McCain did just that, forgot his name, referring to him as someone else, and muttered some nonsense that had nothing to do with the question asked.

I suspect a lot of folks missed the conversation beneath the conversation. I suspect a lot of Black folks did not.

And so, later, when McCain showed his disdain for Barack Obama by referring to him as "that one" when drawing a distinction between their voting records on the Bush-Cheney energy bill, McCain stuck a dagger in his own heart. Take a look:

See the Black man sitting behind Barack Obama? That's the man McCain condescended to earlier in the debate. Notice the way he tilts his head to his right when McCain spits out his equivalent of "you people." As though he's been slapped right across the face. He was suppoedly an undecided voter before the debate. I bet he's undecided no more.

McCain's contempt for people of color and women has been well-documented. A man who would call his wife a trollop and a c*nt in public has no honor. No dignity. That he couldn't look at Barack Obama in the first debate, that he could dehumanize him in the second, all against the backdrop of the Klan rallies and the atmosphere of hate and violence he and his running mate have whipped up in recent days, proves beyond all reasonable doubt that John McCain is dangerously unfit to be president of the United States.

And thanks to the intense interest in this election, hundreds of millions of voters are finally seeing him for who he is.

As one of my favorite bloggers wrote:

10.33 pm. This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain. Even on Russia, he sounded a little out of it. I've watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don't really see how the McCain campaign survives this.

Me either.


Wednesday morning reactions:

Even conservatives can't spin the results from last night. Stephen Hayes from the Weekly Standard declares Obama the winner:

John McCain had a very strong debate tonight. It's too bad for him that it came on a night when Barack Obama was nearly flawless.


Obama's test in the first debate was to present himself as a plausible president, as a guy who didn't seem out of place on stage at a presidential debate and wouldn't seem out of place delivering a State of the Union address. Much as I'd disagree with the policies in such a speech, it was clear that he passed that test. Tonight, his job was to persuade voters--particularly independents--not only that he could be president but that he should be president. I suspect polling in the next couple of days will provide evidence that he passed that test, too.

I cannot believe I actually agree with something written in the Weekly Standard!


The AP takes note of McCain's obvious distaste for Obama:

The McCains and the Obamas moved about the stage separately for a little while after their debate, greeting people on the stage, but not each other. Then John McCain tapped Barack Obama's back briefly and Obama turned and reached his hand out. Rather than shaking it, McCain directed him to his wife, Cindy.

While they did shake hands immediately following the debate, this was an odd moment captured on video. If someone puts out their hand, you shake it - no matter if you already have previously in the evening.


Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics thinks the town hall was boring and poorly-moderated, but no big news is good for Obama:

What all of this means, of course, is that Obama won. At this stage of the campaign, ninety minutes of nothing is a victory for Obama. And if there's one thing we can say with a great deal of certainty about tonight, it's that what just took place isn't going to have any impact whatsoever on the race.

Obama walks away from tonight in the same position he walked into it: well ahead in the polls nationally and in the states that matter.


The Los Angeles Times looks at McCain's dilemma:

Neither insults nor 11th-hour initiatives will change that dynamic over the next month. What McCain needs to regain his balance is to persuade voters that he has a cogent, coherent economic proposal and a command over this dominant issue. He did not deliver either Tuesday night.


John Dickerson at Slate gives his take on the "that one" reference:

There is already a lot of talk in the blogosphere about McCain's referring to Obama as "that one." The Obama campaign was pushing the idea that it was proof McCain was a man of bitter moods. I didn't see it as a major act of disrespect, but it did feel antiquated. I have relatives—older relatives—who use this expression. My mother's version of it was to call someone "himself." (As in, "I'm glad himself has decided to join us for dinner.") McCain has 27 days to find a better way to take on his opponent or he'll be calling him Mr. President.

It was certainly condescending, and reinforces a message we saw come out of the first debate: John McCain's dislike for Barack Obama is so great he simply cannot hide it. A "cool hand at the tiller?" I think not. Make no mistake that this is getting A LOT of play. The top Google searches yesterday? #2: "that one" and #4: "mccain that one"



I love the headlines at the Telegraph in the UK. Alex Spillius pens a great one - Obama wins as McCain shows shades of McNasty:

At times he was cranky and condescending, referring to Mr Obama as "that one", when asking the audience which of them had voted for an energy bill. Without a partisan audience to laugh at his wisecracks, he made a couple of attempts at snide humour that fell completely flat.


Twenty years from now, will McCain's "that one" be included in other notable debate moments? If voters react like one undecided citizen from the Springfield News Leader (MO) focus group, it just might:

After the 90-minute debate, the News-Leader surveyed the thoughts of Honeycutt and five other Ozarkers who were undecided voters before the debate.

Honeycutt said he was disturbed when McCain referred to Obama as "that one."

"That pretty much cinched it right there for me," said Honeycutt, who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. "That showed a lot of disrespect for Sen. Obama."

I expect to hear a lot more about "that one" today. I'm sure Letterman or SNL will find something good to do with it.


David Zurawick of the Baltimore Sun looks at McCain's other awkward moment of the night - when he condescendingly assumes a young African-American has never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

The attack on Obama was not what mattered, but rather the insult implied in his assumption that the young man had not previously heard of two agencies most American homebuyers have explored or at least encountered.

And worse, while McCain seemed at times as if he would actually climb into the audience to make person to person, up close and personal T- style contact with some of his white questioners, he kept his distance from this young black man. And it was noticeable.

It might have seemed like a minor matter to some white viewers, but I wonder what sense persons of color made of that.


Harsh words from the New York Times editorial board:

It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.

And they don't expect it to get any better after the debate:

Ninety minutes of forced cordiality did not erase the dismal ugliness of his campaign in recent weeks, nor did it leave us with much hope that he would not just return to the same dismal ugliness on Wednesday.

Ms. Palin, in particular, revels in the attack. Her campaign rallies have become spectacles of anger and insult. “This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America,” Ms. Palin has taken to saying.

At least someone is telling it like it is. I am truly saddened that more in the media are not expressing their outrage and disgust for the hate mongering the McCain campaign - and especially Sarah Palin - have perpetuated over the last few days.

1 comment:

rikyrah said...

The entire thing can be summed up with THAT ONE.


You hadn't had the first debate where he wouldn't even look at Obama in the face.

Then maybe, White folks could try and find wiggle room for THAT ONE.

Note I said White Folks.

The contempt he had for Obama was obvious.

He didn't even mention middle class ONCE - AGAIN.

Obama brought his game, and didn't back down. This is a good writeup, craig. Thanks for it.

PS-people think I'm nuts, but I think my great-niece is an Obama fan. She watches with attention when I replay his acceptance speech and afterward.