McCain won

Posted on: September 26, 2008

When a presidential candidate’s party has conducted an unpopular war precipitated by an invasion of a sovereign country that didn’t have weapons of mass destruction or Al-Queda or 9-11 links, when it has run the world’s greatest economy straight into the ground, when it’s spending is greater than any other administration, when it took steps to dismantle social security, and when its preparation for disasters at home, namely Katrina, have made the U.S. look like the third world, you’d think that would be the candidate on the defensive.


John McCain won tonight’s presidential debate, the firswt of four scheduled, by being aggressive. He stuck to simple issues and hammered them home. Cut government spending. Bring home victory in Iraq. Obama wanted $932 million in earmarks. Spending is out of control. He held up a pen (“…this old pen..:”) and said it would be used to veto every spending bill that came across his desk.

His best moment was toward the end when speaking about military veterans.

“I know the veterans, I know them well. I love them. I know them and will take care of them and that is going to be my job.”

This was the closest thing to a simple sound bite all night. With a complex mess in Washington and Americans needing someone to take care of it, that statement almost feels like relief.

Great stuff. No knockout one-liners, all hard issue questions with substantive, informed answers.

The surprise was Barak Obama being on the defensive for so much of the night. McCain owns the military issues. That’s clear. But now he owns the issue of government spending. That was supposed to be Obama’s issue- isn’t he touted as the agent of change in this election?

Twice Obama agreed quickly with moderator Jim Lehrer it was time to move on to the next issue. He sounded like a boxer being saved by the bell.

Obama’s best moments came at the beginning. Those were also McCain’s worst moments. Obama, in his opening statements- the question to deal with was on the bailout- talked directly to people’s biggest concerns on the issue of the financial crisis. He talked about the hardship people were having. He spoke well, he looked presidential. The man understood and he cared. That came through clearly. Then Obama made four strong points on what has to be included in a bank bailout- oversight, see that taxpayers may get the money back, no padded CEO pay or golden parachutes and help for homeowners.

McCain followed Obama’s great start start with the line, “I’m not feeling good..” and you had the sense of his age. The debate seemed over then with those four words. I felt an oh-oh moment. Would McCain fall asleep? Would he cry? Would he fall down? He also used the line “..Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac and all that..” as if not pushing the entire issue of the U.S. economy cratering away, as if it didn’t matter a damn.

But through the debate McCain warmed like an old motor, firing on all cylinders once the debate rolled. He became a warrrior, absolutely in control of himself, and he was the only candidate to make fun of himself. Moderator Jim Lehrer very much wanted the candidates to address each other directly. He told Obama at the end of one of his comments, “Tell him,” meaning McCain, who joked, “Did you not think I heard him the first time?”

McCain sounded experienced and presidential, chiding Obama for saying he would sit down with Iraq President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without conditions. “That’s not just naive, that’s dangerous.”

On the war in Iraq, McCain is adamant that the war can be won and is being won. He stubbornly refuses to note that Obama’s point- the U.S. should never have gone in. Obama said the two have “fundamental differences” on the issue. That could be understatement.

McCain also borrowed a line from Hillary Clinton: “I’m ready to go on day one.” Now that should have sparked applause somewhere and shocked gasps elsewhere.

Again, no knockout blows, no sound bite oneliners, but McCain came close to some good ones. It was, very simply, good honest hard debate from two very capable and knowledgeable men. It may have been one of the best ever presidential debates as far as candiates being informed enough to aggressively discuss a wide range of complex issues in a knowledgeable way without resorting to “There you go again” Reaganesque trick-quips, in order to be memorable without being substantial. This debate had meat to it. The players came to play.

Interestingly, McCain also never once looked at Obama while Obama was speaking. He may have never looked at him while he was speaking, either. Some commentators didn’t like that. I did. It made McCain look even more in control, like the leader in the two-man contest.

When a political party has caused this much mess, how McCain, the old warrior, managed to be on the offensive, and not on the defensive, is testament to his mettle. That is how McCain won, but Obama, in spite of being on his heels for some of it once McCain got rolling, more than held his own.


For additional reading check out this fact check list of the candidates’ on-air statements and claims during the debate. Link here.

Thank you for reading AardvarkCola


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  • wordbeeps: No, he doesn't deserve an apology. Who tweets during a funeral? If you do, expect feedback. I didn't say the mourners were faking it. I think they we
  • Holly Stick: Look you fuckwit, are you too stupid to realise that Ghomeshi was an actual friend of Layton's, when you tweeted to him that the mourners were faking
  • aardvarkcola: Thank you. I see the rest of your message now. i'm honoured to to have your words on my blog. That alone is a delight. Lawrence


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