Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"That one" wins big in the 2nd presidential debate


The debate transcript. Compliments of

"By the way, my friends, I know you grow a little weary with this back-and-forth. It was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney. You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. You know who voted against it? Me."

John McCain refers to Barack Obama as 'that one' when talking about an energy bill.

Listen to the audio clip here.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A national poll of debate watchers reveals that Barack Obama won the second presidential debate. 54% of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted after the debate ended said that Obama did the best job in the debate, with 30% saying John McCain performed better.

However, other polls are coming to light, and a quick CBS snap poll right after the debate had Obama winning the debate by twelve points. Perhaps even more eyebrow raising is the fact that before the debate, 60% of voters felt that Obama empathized with their problems. In the snap poll after the debate, that number rose to a whopping 80%. By contrast, McCain didn’t even manage to pull the same attribute up to 50%. Also, there’s talk of a “That One” and a handshake that wasn’t already buzzing around the net. If both pick up steam, McCain’s going to have another bad day today, and possibly for the rest of the week.

Now here's the big one: According to 59,000+ online voters at 8:15pst, Obama won by a whopping 85% of the vote. The obvious masterstroke of the night was when Sen. Obama brought up how Sen. McCain did not vote for, and I quote Sen. Obama, ...he voted against the expansion of Children’s Health Insurance Program that is responsible for making sure that so many children who didn’t have previously health insurance have it now." I thought that was a huge body blow to Sen. McCain. Anyone who can’t stand the sight of a sick child would have to agree. Imagine refusing to take an injured child to a hospital. You would do it…right? Well, I suppose if you are Sen. McCain, you might have other things on your mind.

I totally agree with Taegan Goddard’s impression of the second presidential debate: “Tonight’s debate wasn’t even close. Sen. Barack Obama ran away with it,” “In contrast, Sen. John McCain was extremely erratic,” and “Tom Brokaw was terrible as moderator.” The polls also showed a majority agreed with Obama being the winner.

John McCain attempted without success to make points by throwing out a new plan:

"As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes — at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those — be able to make those payments and stay in their homes."

A debate is not the time to announce the vague outlines of a new policy. If he was serious about this he would have provided the plan in greater detail at a better time to review it than during a debate. One of McCain’s favorite phrases after “my friends” is “I know how to…” In saying this McCain reminds me of Richard Nixon who campaigned on a secret plan to win the Vietnam war in 1968. McCain won’t convince anyone that he really knows how to fix our problems unless he comes up with more than a single idea like this. Both candidates were asked to prioritize three major issues: “Health policies, energy policies, and entitlement reform, what are going to be your priorities in what order?” McCain avoided answering the question, saying he could do all three. This wasn’t very convincing coming from the guy who showed he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time when he suspended his campaign and called for canceling the first debate. Obama better connected with viewers when he prefaced a real answer by saying, “We’re going to have to prioritize, just like a family has to prioritize.”

McCain repeated the same lies he has repeatedly been saying about Obama’s tax plans. In a debate where Brokaw brought up the rules far too many times, he did a horrible job in moderating by not allowing Obama to respond right then and there to lies over such a crucial matter as taxation. McCain didn’t learn from the first debate when he was criticized for failing to look directly at Obama. This time he came off far worse the most discussed aspect of the debate, when he referred to Obama as “that one.”

Early in the debate McCain looked ridiculous by arguing about overhead projectors, and he looked even more ridiculous by bringing up hair transplants during the discussion of health care. McCain characterized health care as a responsibility while Obama characterized it as a right. McCain seems to have forgotten that he was running against Barack Obama and not Hillary Clinton when he raised mandates. McCain tried to spin this to make it appear Obama was creating hardships for families who would be required to provide health care for their children. He ignored the fact that Obama’s requirement for coverage of children is accompanied by assistance to enable parents to afford it. McCain’s argument was further undermined by Obama bringing up McCain’s vote against the CHIP program.

John McCain’s most serious tactical error in the debate was to repeat the same line as in the first without anticipating that Obama would be ready. McCain said Obama “does not understand our national security challenges” and that “We don’t have time for on-the-job training, my friends.” Mentioning on-the-job training sounded strange coming from the candidate who chose Sarah Palin to be vice president. Obama had an obviously prepared response to McCain’s claim that he does not understand national security:

"Well, you know, Sen. McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don’t understand. It’s true. There are some things I don’t understand. I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us. That was Sen. McCain’s judgment and it was the wrong judgement. When Sen. McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we’d be greeted as liberators. That was the wrong judgment, and it’s been costly to us."

The same theme came up again when McCain distorted Obama’s position on Pakistan and tried to compare himself to Teddy Roosevelt:

"Now, Sen. McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and, you know, I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible… Sen. McCain, this is the guy who sang, 'Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,' who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of 'speaking softly.' This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, 'Next up, Baghdad.' "

It backfired for McCain to bring up Teddy Roosevelt. It was even more foolish for McCain to try to compare Obama to Herbert Hoover when viewers would clearly see Bush/McCain as the modern day Hoover and Obama as FDR. At least McCain has given up on comparing Obama to William Jennings Bryan as he did in June. It never works well for McCain to raise these comparisons to the past as it only reminds voters that he is a candidate of the twentieth (nineteenth?) century while Obama is the candidate of the twenty-first century.

The debate was a total victory for Obama. Not only did he win on the issues, he came off as looking more presidential, more capable of leading in a crisis, and even more likable. McCain needed a game changer. Instead he dug himself further into a hole.

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