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Klein: Obama Wins Debate On Tactics and Strategies

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    By Joe Klein Saturday, Sep. 27, 2008


    Toward the very end of tonight's debate—which was quite a good one, I believe—John McCain laid out his rationale in this election in just a few words: Senator Obama, he said, lacks the "knowledge and experience to be President." The presidency will turn on whether the American people agree with McCain on that—but on this night, Obama emerged as a candidate who was at least as knowledgeable, judicious and unflappable as McCain on foreign policy ... and more knowledgeable, and better suited to deal with the economic crisis and domestic problems the country faces.

    But even if my verdict were reversed to grant McCain a slight victory, there was nothing in this debate that was a knockout blow—nothing that should change the current trajectory of the campaign. (Although it may staunch the slow bleed that McCain has experienced the past week). Obama seemed plenty presidential; McCain seemed more prudent and thoughtful than he has since he uttered the most important line of the campaign so far, "the fundamentals of the economy are good." Neither man closed the sale, and I don't think many votes, or opinions, were changed.

    This was a debate—at times explicitly—about tactics and strategies. McCain was more tactical, trying to pick fights with Obama on the details of foreign policy and not venturing beyond his personal domestic policy obsessions like the $18 billion spent per year on Congressional earmarks. Obama was more concerned with strategy, and an overall vision for the country—he was the one who brought up the damage done to America's standing in the world, and also the one who insisted on putting the war in Iraq in a broader strategic context: it had hurt America's overall position in the middle east by empowering Iran and allowing Al Qaeda to regain strength in Afghanistan. As for McCain's remark about Obama not knowing the difference between a tactic and a strategy—McCain was wrong. The counterinsurgency methods introduced by David Petraeus in Iraq were a tactical change, a new means to achieve Bush's same strategic end of a stable, unified Iraq. If Bush had decided to partition the country, or to withdraw, that would have been a change in strategy.

    McCain was clearly the aggressor in this debate and that may have worked to his advantage—Obama graciously admitted when he agreed with McCain; McCain rarely acknowledged Obama in that or any other way. The problem with McCain's aggressiveness was that it almost always involved misstating Obama's positions—on offshore drilling, nuclear power, talking to our enemies, raising taxes on the middle class, attacking Pakistan ... the same list of untruths McCain has stuck with throughout the campaign. Or he'd try to make petty distinctions, like whether Obama's initial statements on Georgia were tough enough. When Obama chose to criticize McCain it was on big things—supporting the war in Iraq, opposing alternative energy, standing by the Republican trickle-down philosophy of taxation. In this way, too, Obama was strategic and McCain tactical.

    McCain was also confused about what "preconditions" means in diplo-speak. The Bush Administration had, until recently, set a precondition for talks with Iran: that the Iranians had to stop processing nuclear fuel. Obama would talk to the Iranians—as Henry Kissinger and James Baker would—without setting that condition. (Diplo-speak only vaguely resembles English: precondition is redundant, all conditions for starting a negotiation are pre-.) Unfortunately, we never learned how McCain feels about that condition because Obama dropped the ball here—he never explained what he meant by "preconditions" in this specific context or asked McCain if he agreed. There were several other opportunities missed by Obama: he could have noted that the Iraqi government has agreed to his notion of a timetable and asked McCain, Do you want to stay longer than the Iraqis want us there?

    Ultimately, sadly, these debates are won, or lost, on style and perceptions of character—not substance. Those are matters of taste. We'll see if McCain seemed too old or Obama too young. Obama did speak in a stronger, firmer voice. He was clear, straightforward and not at all professorial. He looked directly into the camera; McCain rarely, if ever, did. But McCain put his experience—his frequent travels overseas—to good use in this debate, although his standard laugh lines like "Miss Congeniality" seemed to bomb.

    Obama did everything he had to do, with few if any mistakes. I thought McCain did less so. The early snap polling seems to agree with me, but I'd caution against taking those too seriously. This was a big event in this campaign—the beginning of the end. It will need to be digested, discussed around the water cooler and the dinner table. But the race has not been decided yet.

    http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1845114,00.html
  2. bbgun

    bbgun Benched

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    On the other hand ...


    JOHN COMES OUT VICTORIOUS AFTER PLAYING OFFENSE

    Rich Lowry
    NY Post
    September 27, 2008


    VOTERS who were just tuning into the campaign last night got their timing just right.

    For an hour and a half, the campaign ads, all the sideshows - the showmanship over the bailout deal, the fights over misstatements and gaffes - seemed but a distant memory.

    Two exceptional presidential candidates turned in strong performances. Neither man committed a major gaffe or scored a big hit.

    But John McCain bettered Barack Obama.

    The Arizonan had a rocky start, as if it took him some time to shake off the Washington mire he had entered the day before at such risk to his candidacy.

    It didn't help that the debate, notionally devoted to foreign policy, began on economics - not McCain's natural strength. In discussing the financial mess, McCain hewed to one of his favorite obsessions, earmarked spending, although it has no connection to the meltdown on Wall Street.

    It wasn't until about a third of the way into the debate that McCain hit his stride.

    Then, he clearly became the aggressor - repeatedly hitting Obama for advocating a plan that would lose the Iraq war, for saying he'd meet with foreign leaders without precondition and for initially blaming Russia and Georgia equally for Russia's invasion.

    McCain was less a boxer than an ultimate fighter - trying to get Obama in a headlock on these issues and never let go. Obama was the fleet-footed bantam weight - dancing away from McCain's grip with his eloquence and (some irritated facial gestures aside) his even temperament.

    The two signature lines of the night were, "Senator Obama doesn't understand," and, "John is right." McCain said the former over and over said; Obama frequently repeated the latter. How this plays in the post-debate spin will have much to do with the follow-on effect of the debate.

    At the end, McCain came right out and said Obama doesn't have the experience and judgment to be president. Obama weirdly responded with a riff about his dad being from Kenya and the need for more education spending. This could well be interpreted as weakness.

    And even if Obama lost, it was no blowout - and all he really had to do was hold his own. National security isn't his natural area - and he really only needs people to be minimally comfortable with him to win this race.

    McCain's answers on foreign policy were consistently more vivid and personal than Obama's. He ended on an almost wi****l note, saying how much he loves his fellow veterans and how he knows how to heal a country after a war. The message: "Send me on a final mission."

    Obama, in contrast, wants to go on his first mission. Last night, he twice referred disparagingly to the 20th century. With his measured performance, he wants voters to conclude it's safe to embark into the future with him.
  3. Beast_from_East

    Beast_from_East Well-Known Member

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    Analyst will say who won based on their own personal preference. However, most polling shows that Obama won and the biggest problem McCain has is that he refused to look at Obama.

    That type of stuff really turns people off, maybe it was a tactic by McCain or maybe he just hates the guy, I dont know. Either way it does not matter, the visuals are always more important than what is actually said in a debate and McCain looked bad, very bad last night.

    My .02
  4. ZeroClub

    ZeroClub just trying to get better

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    While certainly it is possible to nitpick, I think both candidates came off well during the debate.

    McCain and Obama were both able to respond with some intelligence and sophistocation. Not bad.

    The people who have already decided how they will vote will be able to use the debate to confirm their decision.

    The disconcerting part of this process, in my opinion, is that most voters place too much emphasis on the perceived personality attributes of the candidates. The President is a head of state ... who appoints a host of figures from the president's own party to run the executive branch.

    Relying on the "cult of personality" appeal of candidates to determine votes is a lot like a car buyer deciding on which car to buy based exclusively on the shape and comfort of the car's steering wheel.

    If you look at what has happened in the past 8 years with Republican control of the executive branch (war, torture, remarkable deficits, financial crises) virtually anyone who values accountability and responsibility should be hard pressed to believe that the Republicans somehow deserve another term of control.

    And to those who want to believe that McCain will build a better administration than Bush, 1) remember that McCain is picking from the same pool of Republicans and 2) look at McCain's choice so far --- S. Palin, who is clearly in over her head.

    But, for better or for worse, we'll be electing the prettiest steering wheel, and hoping the rest of the car turns out o.k.

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