To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Friday, September 26, 2008

TtP Debate Drunkblogging -- What the Fuck? '08

Because Rob is indisposed (see below) I'm going to try to pinch hit for him tonight and blog the debate. This is the first time I've tried this, so bear with me.

So, who's in our title fight tonight?

Barack "The Iceman" Obama: One-term Democratic senator from Illinois; former Chicago lawyer and community organizer. Often compared to Jesus Christ by his followers, though they really want to avoid the "martyrdom" thing.

What does he bring to the fight? He's tall, handsome and well-spoken (yes, I said it), and noted for his supremely chill attitude. The big question? Is he too chill for his own good? This isn't a GQ shoot after all.

Experience? He went 22 debate rounds with Hillary Rodham "Plenty Likable" Clinton and came out on top. Well, not on her but you know what I mean. Still, he never landed a knock out blow, instead winning by decision.

John "Ol' Cranky" McCain: Four-term Republican senator from Arizona; former congressman, Navy liaison to Congress; Vietnam aviator and resident of the Hanoi Hilton, 1967-73. Often compared to John Wayne by his fans, except he prefers killing Arabs to Native Americans.

What does he bring to the fight? He has a unique combination of war hero gravitas (he fought in Vietnam) and being willing to fight rough and even dirty (he fought in Vietnam) and a capacity to just go batshit crazy (he fought in Vietnam).

Experience? Spent years after 2000 being hated by the Bush administration, Republicans in Congress and the conservative opinion journal/radio talk show world for supporting campaign finance reform, opposing the Bush tax cuts and supporting pro-immigrant immigration reform, among other things. He then won the nomination and beat them into submission.

Time: 8:05 p.m. EST Okay, I've got a bottle of Dewars open and plenty of ice in the fridge. The TV is tuned to CNN. We're ready to go.

Time: 8:11 p.m. EST Christiane Amanpour is discussing foreign policy. She's got those dusky good looks and a sultry British accent. Is it wrong for me to think, I'd hit that?

Time: 8:15 p.m. EST The commercials include a trailer for Oliver Stone's upcoming George W. Bush biopic. Looks like it is going to be a camp classic. Like Striptease but with less boobies. Or maybe not. With Oliver Stone you never know.

Time: 8:23 p.m. EST Technical glitch there for a minute, but things look okay now. During the interim, John Lennon sang the praises of Cisco Systems. Right now, oilman T. Boone Pickens is talking directly to viewers asking for federal subsidies for his windfarms.

Time: 8:28 p.m. EST CNN is reporting that congressional negotiations on the bailout package are back on track. So breathe easy folks, Congress is on the verge of sending $700 billion to Wall Street. That'll teach 'em to never to do it again.

Time: 8:32 p.m. EST Bill Bennett says he hopes that McCain talks about the surge. Yeah, I was wondering about that myself.

Time: 8:39 p.m. EST CNN shows us one of their focus groups, 32 supposedly all-American types. From what I can see, they are mostly fat couch potatoes, so yeah, they look all-American.

Time: 8:43 p.m. EST Factoid of the Moment: CNN points out that no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. So if McCain shows up in a Cleveland Browns jersey, we'll know why.

Time: 8:51 p.m. EST Gloria Borger handicaps the fight: "McCain is a street fighter and Obama is a constitutional lawyer" His nuance may be lost on viewers. Ah, the perils of being too smart.

Time: 8:52 p.m. EST My question: Whose fucking idea was it to have a debate on a Friday in the first place? Who is watching this anyway?

Time: 8:54 p.m. EST CNN reports that the Wall Street Journal ran an ad on its website by the McCain/Palin campaign claiming they won the debate. The McCain campaign says the Journal ran the ad in error. Well, no shit. So what the fuck happened? I dunno. CNN moved on to something else.

Time: 8:56 p.m. EST Programming note: I have switched from whiskey to vodka. I'll need all the power I can get to make it through this.

Time: 9:00 p.m. EST Okay, and the candidates have come on the stage and touched gloves. We are ready to go.

Time: 9:05 p.m. EST And the first question in the foreign policy debate is about fiscal policy and the bailout ...

Time: 9:07 p.m. EST Obama says he is for a bailout so long as it is good for homeowners and the American people. Glad we cleared that up. He adds a shot at McCain as essentially responsible for the crisis because he is with Bush, you know. So he went about 60 seconds before he made a partisan jab.

Time: 9:09 p.m. EST McCain opens with a shout-out to Ted Kennedy, who is back in the hospital. Classy. Not much substance otherwise though.

Time: 9:11 p.m. EST Obama claims he foresaw the mortgage crisis last year and warned about it. He throws in another anti-Bush jab too. He doesn't answer Jim Lehrer's question about whether he'd support the congressional deal though. McCain says he "hopes" he will.

Time: 9:14 p.m. EST McCain defends his call to fire SEC chairman Chris Cox. "We have lost the sense of accountability," he says. Surprising move, but he's making the best of what a lot people thought was a crazy idea.

Time: 9:14 p.m. EST A French expat friend calls me about the debate. She doesn't like McCain at all, but thinks he's winning, even though we are just 10 minutes into it. "The roles are set," she says. She also says she thinks they are both left-handed.

Time: 9:16 p.m. EST McCain throws his first jab, hitting Obama over his earmarking. Obama doesn't respond. He returns to trying to say McCain is just a George Bush clone. Geez, get a new line man.

Time: 9:22 p.m. EST Obama is slow to react, he stutters too much, he sounds too rehearsed. He returns to Bush-bashing like it is a magic formula or something: "You are neglecting the struggles of ordinary people. That is a continuation of the last eight years." McCain sounds more natural, more at ease and yet somehow more passionate. Still, it's early in the debate.

Time: 9:26 p.m. EST Man, this debate is wonky. Obama calls McCain on health benefits. He wants to tax benefits, Obama says. McCain returns fire by saying he voted against the pork-stuffed energy bill, trying to tie him to oil and energy companies. Obama says, well, I tried to strip some of those things from the bill. That's lame.

Time: 9:31 p.m. EST Good question by Lehrer: what will the bailout bill force you to dump out of your campaign promises? Obama says he doesn't know, but concedes he won't be able to afford everything now, then rambles on and on for a while. McCain says spending cuts are a must now. He calls for eliminating ethanol subsidies, and cutting back on Pentagon spending. "We need to get cost overruns under control. I know how to do that." He even promises to put people in jail. Good responses, though nothing in his response indicates what on his wish list he would give up. The old fart is sharp tonight.

Time: 9:31 p.m. EST Obama says if I'm the most liberal senator it is only because I was opposing "the misguided policies of George W. Bush." Again, I'm glad we cleared that up. Obama then gives a shout out to his buddy and co-sponsor on bills, Tom Coburn, the most conservative senator.

Time: 9:34 p.m. EST "There is no doubt that as president, I am going to have to make some tough decisions," Obama says. I think you are getting ahead of yourself senator.

Time: 9:39 p.m. EST For the second time, McCain says it was well known that he was not Miss Congeniality in the Senate. He must like that line. Either that or he just wants people to know he looks ugly in a dress.

Time: 9:43 p.m. EST Obama says he took a risk opposing the Iraq war in 2002. Is that really the case? He was a state senator at the time, representing what I'm guessing was a pretty liberal district. I mean it's not like he opposed motherhood and apple pie.

Time: 9:47 p.m. EST Obama responds to a McCain jab on the surge by saying that he is very proud of his vice presidential pick, Joe Biden. No so swift, but he recovers by hitting McCain over his supporting the war in 2003. McCain hits back by saying that we are winning now and the troops want to win: "You don't understand the difference between tactics and strategy," McCain says and somehow gets the upper hand. Man, if Obama cannot beat him on this issue, he's in trouble.

Time: 9:52 p.m. EST Lehrer says, "Having resolved Iraq, we'll go to Afghanistan."

Time: 9:56 p.m. EST McCain hits Obama for supporting strikes in Pakistan (umm, doesn't Bush now support this?). McCain says it's wrong to say that out loud. If we have to do that then we do it, we just don't tell anyone. Obama amazingly lets this pass.

Time: 10:03 p.m. EST McCain hits back against the warmonger charge by saying he opposed sending Marines to Lebanon. He then rattles off a number of other similar international conflicts. He then invokes a weeping mother whose son died in Iraq and gave him a bracelet to remember her son. Obama replies, well I've got a bracelet too. "No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because he is carrying out the orders of his commander-in-chief," Obama says. Umm, doesn't that step on his anti-war message?

Time: 10:08 p.m. EST McCain comes down hard against having a second Holocaust. Another thing I am glad we cleared up.

Time: 10:10 p.m. EST I am beginning to wonder if Obama is Kenyan for "Dukakis". Seriously, Obama's lack of passion, his Ivy League love of nuance in debate is killing him.

Time: 10:14 p.m. EST McCain goads Obama into reaffirming that he'd meet with leaders from Iran and other rogue regimes whenever he feels it'll help. He cites Kissinger, as if that'll win people over. McCain replies he won't set the meeting schedule before he is in the White House. "I don't even have a seal yet." Sharp shot. Obama is not just naive but dangerous, McCain says. He quotes Reagan's "trust but verify" line too.

Time: 10:19 p.m. EST And on to Russia! Clearly Obama made certain he knew how to pronounce "South Ossetia" correctly.

Time: 10:23 p.m. EST McCain one-ups Obama by saying he went to South Ossetia. He then pronounces the names of a series of Eastern European/Russian places, the kind of names that have 15 consonants to every vowel.

Time: 10:25 p.m. EST Has Obama showed passion or anger once tonight? Not that I saw. McCain, on the other hand, shows it again and again. In fact, he sounds like he is restraining himself.

Time: 10:29 p.m. EST Lehrer asks how likely are we to have another 9/11 attack? Oh, come on. Nobody knows the answer to that one.

Time: 10:33 p.m. EST Obama promises to restore American standing in the world. Well, he's got the all-important liberal expat vote behind him now. He then congratulates McCain for opposing torture. Dang, he really doesn't know how to play this game, does he?

Time: 10:36 p.m. EST I just noticed how Obama has a habit of referring to himself as "we". It's subtle but it kind of gives away his ego.

Time: 10:38 p.m. EST And McCain goes for the gut in his closing remarks. Hey, did you know he was a prisoner of war? And he loves our vets?

Time: 10:39 p.m. EST After the end is called, Obama tells McCain, "Good job."

Time: 10:42 p.m. EST In the postgame Gloria Borger says Obama won because he "held his own." Way to lower the bar, Gloria. David Gergen calls it a draw.

Time: 10:42 p.m. EST Watching the post-debate analysis, I must confess that I don't like Anderson Cooper much. That's mostly because my ex-girlfriend loved him. Hey, babe, I want my albums back, alright?

The Wrap-up: Well, if it wasn't clear enough from my posts above, I think McCain won decisively. Obama had no major screwups but he was on defense throughout the night and was otherwise slow, uncertain and lacking passion. He kept returning to trying to link McCain to Bush. It made him look too much like a hack. McCain seemed more confident, more knowlegeable and more at ease. He also hit Obama thoughout night without somehow looking too mean. The repeated line that Obama just doesn't understand seemed to get under the cool one's skin.

As I write this the experts at CNN say Obama won narrowly because he didn't lose. And so the conventional wisdom forms. Me? I'm getting another drink. See you later folks.

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