September 26, 2008


The Mac is back (ROGER SIMON | 9/26/08, Politico)

[M]cCain not only found a central theme but hit on it repeatedly. Obama is inexperienced, naive, and just doesn’t understand things, McCain said.

Sure, McCain is a pretty old guy for a presidential candidate, but he showed the old guy did not mind mixing it up. He stood behind a lectern for 90 minutes without a break — you try that when you are 72 — and he not only gave as good as he got, he seemed to relish it more.

At least twice after sharp attacks by McCain, Obama seemed to look to moderator Jim Lehrer for help, saying to Lehrer, “Let’s move on.”

McCain Was Good. But Good Enough? (Michael Crowley, 9/26/08, New Republic: The Stump)

For one thing, McCain certainly benefited tonight from low expectations--expectations fueled in part by liberal critics who have caricatured him as a doddering old fool. He outperformed them easily.

McCain also had a clarity of message that Obama lacked. His core message is easy to sum up: Let's cut waste and spending. I'm a tough leader. Obama is naive and unprepared. Obama, by contrast, had no single message that he repeatedly drove home. He came across as sensible, studious, and thoughtful--but at times abstract and passionless. Obama did land some good shots at McCain's judgment over Iraq. But some of his other attacks--including his quips about McCain's "bomb Iran" song, and seemingly not wanting to meet with the president of Spain--seemed halfhearted, almost as though Obama was embarrassed to make them. (To his credit, perhaps.) I was almost reminded of Hillary's dead-on-arrival "change you can Xerox" crack from some primary debate 100 months ago.

And stylistically, McCain was more in control. He was the one setting the tone and introducing nettlesome topics, forcing Obama to respond and defend himself.

Obama's Emotional Deficit (Noam Scheiber, 9/26/08, New Republic: The Stump)
I'd guess the CW will be that McCain won on points, with nothing close to a knockout, and I'd echo that judgment. McCain had Obama on the defensive over earmark requests and his $800 billion in new spending, then later on the surge and those rogue-leader meetings. [...]

My biggest problem with Obama is that he cedes almost all the emotional ground to McCain. For my money, the exchange that defined the debate was McCain sarcastically suggesting Obama would just tell Ahmadinejad "no" when he threatens to annihilate Israel. Obama tried to interrupt McCain several times during this mini-rant, then just kind of let the matter drop when he had a chance to respond. What he needed to do was look straight into the camera and inject a little emotion of his own. Something like, "Israel is one of our most loyal allies in the world. Their security is absolutely sacred to me. And if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or any other tin-pot dictator thinks he can threaten Israel in my presence or anywhere else, he's in for a rude awakening. I would leave absolutely no doubt in his mind how we treat countries looking for fights with our allies."

Any analysis has to begin from the fact that the media and the Left have built Senator Obama up so much that a guy who's a mediocre debater at best was widely expected by the electorate to dominate. Thus, he's a loser if their performance was roughly equal and a big loser if you think he had a rough night.

Obama Remains Firm on Meeting Rogue Leaders Without Preconditions (Susan Davis, 9/26/08, The Page)

“I reserve the right as president of the United States to meet with anyone of my choosing if I feel it would protect the United States,” Obama said, adding that Kissinger, a McCain friend and adviser, recently said the U.S. should negotiate directly with Iran without preconditions, although he said he preferred it be at the State Department level.

McCain said it was “fiction” and that Obama was parsing words

Kissinger: Obama Misstates My View (The Page, 9/26/08)
“Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level.”
Obama said during the debate that Kissinger, a McCain adviser, supports presidential talks with the Iranian president.

Senator McCain is right seems to be the big theme of the night.

Score one for John McCain (S.E. CUPP, September 26th 2008, NY Daily News)

Throughout the debate, which focused on both the economy and foreign policy, McCain had facts, figures and names at his fingertips, speaking from decades of experience in the trenches - literally and figuratively - and repeated the phrase, "Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand . . ." He called Obama naive, dangerous and inexperienced, and his attacks, which seemed to frustrate Obama, put him on the defensive for the majority of the night.

Obama's expectations here were low. Foreign policy is McCain's strength and Obama merely had to hold his own to come away from this unscathed. He did - in the first third of the night, devoted to the economy, Obama performed well, invoking the clauses that Democratic voters want to hear. But he seemed at times too cool, even verging on arrogant.

In an early stumble, he couldn't give any concrete examples of how the current economic crisis would affect his budget were he to become President, even when pressed repeatedly by the moderator, Jim Lehrer. McCain proposed spending freezes and defense cuts.

When the debate turned to foreign policy, McCain pressed him on his failure over a long period to visit Afghanistan, though Obama repeatedly stressed that this was where he would focus his foreign policy efforts in the war on terror. And here, Obama awkwardly brought up his running mate Joe Biden, seeming to suggest that what Obama lacked, Biden would make up for.

But McCain's biggest score was when Obama relayed the lesson he's learned from Iraq: that we never should have gone there in the first place. McCain rightly pointed out that the job of the next U.S. president will not be to ruminate over why we went or whether it was a good idea, but to determine how and when to leave. Obama had a difficult time dancing around the success of the surge, which he has long been reluctant to admit.

And on Iran, Obama's past embrace of conditionless diplomatic meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other leaders of rogue regimes came back to haunt him. McCain effectively cornered him, asking, "We're going to sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and we say, No you're not?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2008 10:52 PM
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