Saturday, September 27, 2008

Presidential Debate One: Advantage Sen. McCain

--Richard E. Vatz

If debates are a measure of who would be a better president, Sen. John McCain should be elected Commander-in Chief per last night’s first presidential debate of 2008.

There are few resolved issues wherein two presidential aspirants take diametrically opposed positions \before\ the dispute is decided. The Iraqi “surge,” however, is just such an issue in this election.

Last night Sen. McCain (or “John” to Sen. Barack Obama – was this a strategic decision to lessen the hierarchical distance between them?) clearly and unambiguously made the point that Sen. Obama’s plan for precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, opposing and pessimistically assessing the "surge," would have led to U.S. forces' being pulled out last year, losing the war, compromising the United States’ influence in the world and leaving the Middle East in inescapable instability. The “surge,” an indisputable success, leaves Sen. Obama uncharacteristically gasping for air.

On other matters the debate was, in the opinion of this observer, a close call, if you control for the support of the two men’s political philosophies. Neither man had the political courage to state his position on the financial recovery plan. There was the classic Democratic-Republican clash on taxes, wherein Sen. Obama wants to raise taxes on corporations, and Sen. McCain argued that U.S. corporations already pay the 2nd highest taxes in the democratic world and that there are diminishing returns to all taxation programs.

Sen. McCain won some small, insufficiently attended-to, disputes, such as the need for offshore drilling and the false assertion by Democrats that he has been an echo chamber for President Bush. He was also right – and Sen. Obama was wrong -- in his characterization of Henry Kissinger and his (Sen. McCain's) similarity on strategy in dealing with negotiations with Iran. Sen. Obama made some indisputably correct points regarding the over-exuberant predictions that Sen. McCain made at the beginning of the war in Iraq.

On style, both men were superb – prepared, fluent, engaging with alacrity in good clash. Sen. Obama interrupted Sen. McCain when the latter was making telling points, but it is the job of the moderator – Jim Lehrer of PBS – to control this. Let me just say, parenthetically, that Mr. Lehrer was terrible. He incongruously insisted on chastising the debaters to look at each other, and he made other pointless observations and interruptions and then ignored the Obama interruptions.

There are two major ways to look at Presidential debates: who wins the substantive clash on the issues, and who wins over voters who are undecided and/or low intensity supporters of one’s opponents.

An unrepresentative, national CNN poll came out overnight – in a bizarre coincidence, I know one of the respondents – and showed Obama “won.” Such polls sometimes have persuasive effects (in 1980 an unrepresentative poll showing Gov. Reagan beating President Carter may have helped the former), but they are simply irresponsible, even if done accurately, which this was not. CNN made the classic indefensible media choice of being first, even when accuracy is at risk.

So overall: Sen. McCain wins the “foreign policy” debate that included economic crisis issues. The electoral effect may be negligible.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University


Perfect Storm said...

My Friend,

Clearly your analysis is skewed and irresponsible. Your ideology stance is not a secret and your bias is a given factor in my assessment in my analysis.

However, your expertise is obvious and for that I give you a B-.

Please do a re-write that acknowledges the strengths of both parties in detail and resubmit you post for my consideration.

libhom said...

I find it interesting that you are so blindly loyal to the GOP that you actually said that "Keating Five" McCain won the debate.

anotherwatcher said...

"your bias is a given factor in my assessment in my analysis."

And YOURS is not perfect storm?

Keating Five? What does that have to do with anything? McCain was THE ONLY Republican in that scandal. He was never charged with anything as the others were.

I thought the debate was as exciting as talking to a liberal. I had to turn it off. BS from both sides. The best line was the one where Obama argued what Kissinger would do. Kissinger was quick to call out the One.
I remember watching on tv when Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address, Obama is no Lincoln.

Ivana Vote said...

Without assessing your flawed argument, I wish to address the Commander in Chief problem.

Our current president focused entirely too much of his energy on his role as C in C. This was obviously done to the detriment of the US economy as indicated by the unprecedented economic horrors we are now experiencing.

It is incumbent upon Obama, as our next president, to concentrate on domestic issues-- to clean up the mess left by the "war president".

IF McCain is such a wonderful military expert, Obama can hire McCain as Secretary of Defense.

I am sure McCain's alleged talent for 'reaching across the Isle' will make him a perfect fit-- he will be effective. Obama should probably hire him.

Daniel said...

"Our current president focused entirely too much of his energy on his role as C in C. "

Gee, I wonder what the families of those killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 would say to that?


ivana vote said...
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Daniel said...


Find one of those families that said that.


anotherwatcher said...

"intelligence we had that indicated the attack was imminent"

Making stuff up again I see. Dolt!

ivana vote said...

ess drek und shtarbn

Daniel said...

verklempt in kopf

Ivana Vote said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ivana Vote said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Steal said...

I hate to admit it gentlemen, and as a lifelong Republic party member this is very hard for me to say, but I believe we have been outperformed by Obama, and the country is headed for socialism.

The polls are discouraging and it will take a miracle to turn things around. I feel it would be a smart move for Palin to bow out in order to save face, and in order for there to be a chance left for our man McCain,

Daniel said...

Not proud of anyone.

Least of all you, ivana (throwup).

Bruce Godfrey said...

It would seem that the hierarchical distance between McCain and Obama would be precisely zero. Both are members of the United States Senate; neither is the master over the other.

My suspicion is that these men address each other by first names in private, and that the continuation of that informal tone was simply natural and effective for Senator Obama. The bigger tell was how rarely Senator McCain actualy addresses, rather than made oblique third-person reference to, his opponent.

Of similar vein was Senator McCain's firm refusal to face his opponent and make eye contact while Senator Obama did so. My hunch: to McCain, Obama is the abyss of his own ambition; when he sees Obama he sees the next President of the United States, and the indignity and outrage of this injustice simply overwhelm the self-admitted histrionic and approval-seeking McCain.

Ivana Vote said...


very eloquently put.

OyBama said...

every once and a while someone comes along and pulls the curtain aside.

anotherwatcher said...

Now the left talking point of the debate is, "McCain never once said 'middle class'". Obama said it 20 times or so.
So, for the left is is coming down to how many times a phrase is used? How sad.
I think the reason McCain did not use that term is because he is for EVERYONE. Low, middle and those nasty rich folks. (who are only nasty until you are one)
If this is all Obama can come up with, his loss.

Higgy said...

Those nasty rich folks seem to pay 90% or more of our federal income tax.

I was born and raised in the military. I met my father when I was almost 6 when he came home from the pacific after WW2. I spent 4.5 years active duty U.S.Marine Corps. Obama impresses me the same way W. Clinton impressed me - devout coward.

As far as leading this country Sen. John McCain can and will. Obama needs to be able to think and talk on his own two feet without the need for a teleprompter or 300 advisers.

Mister D. said...

The next President of the United States(and it won't be Obama)should say something like this:

"These are the laws of my administration No one's allowed to smoke Or tell a dirty joke And whistling is forbidden... If chewing gum is chewed The chewer is pursued. And in the hoosegow hidden... If any form of pleasure is exhibited Report to me and it will be prohibited. I'll put my foot down, so shall it be. This is the land of the free. The last man nearly ruined this place He didn't know what to do with it If you think this country's bad off now Just wait 'til I get through with it The country's taxes must be fixed And I know what to do with it If you think you're paying too much now Just wait 'til I get through with it... I will not stand for anything that's crooked or unfair I'm strictly on the up and up So everyone beware If anyone's caught taking graft And I don't get my share We stand 'em up against the wall And pop goes the weasel. If any man should come between her husband and his bride We find out which one she prefers By letting her decide If she prefers the other man The husband steps outside We stand 'em up against the wall And pop goes the weasel.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies."-Groucho Marx

Republic Party Values said...

AS a lifelong republic party member a recommend McCain send Palin to all the local republic party committee meetings. Palin can then let us do what she and her daughter are best at: we will all pass her around to tear off a piece.

Obama is winning, this country is no longer safe for the neo-cons

Mister D. said...

"republic" ?

Is that a new political party?

For the record,Obama is not winning.This marathon presidential race is too close to call.

R-oy Vey-ganian said...
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Mister D. said...

"Obama is too too, is too."

No,he's not.

Real Soldier said...
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Rusty Steele said...

What does Michael Steel think ?

Wait...who cares ?

Mister D. said...

What does Rusty Steele think ?

Wait...who gives a rat's ass ?

Heimlich Maneuverer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ralph Henderson said...

I believe that the by disallowing posts by those with opposing view points you come off as weak. As a Republican who is not afraid of the opposition, I can no longer recommend this blog to my friends.

Anonymous said...

Deleting posts is due to profanity I believe. Unlike Free State Maryland who actually REFUSES to allow anyone from the right to even continue as a registered poster if they disagree with you.

Dr. Internet said...

I think there are a number of ways to view presidential debates. Dr. Vatz raises good points but I think overstates much of the debate analysis. To othe average voter who isn't a whipped-up blogger, the overall general feeling would have to be that Obama had a slight victory. Not convincing in any way, but just came off better to the Average Joe.

There are three points that (to me) are worth mentioning. One, as Godfrey pointed out well, is Sen. McCain's body language toward Sen. Obama. That didn't look good on camera, and despite where you smart people stand on issues, that matters. Also to Godfrey's point, there's a great article in the Atlantic that states the very things he posted about Sen. McCain's dislike for his opponent. It's worth the read. Though I will nopt be voting for Sen. McCain, I thought it a great piece and paints a complex picture of a complicated person.

Second, keep in mind who the debates are for: the undecided or weakly aligned. For those of us like me (Sen. Obama) or you (likely Sen. McCain) our minds are made up already. But you need to look at this through the eyes of the truly undecided. For them, I think Sen. Obama did a solid job on convincing people he can handle the job and Sen. McCain did an outstandig job in his mastery of foreign affairs. If the idea of an Obama administration hasn't turned you off yet, nothing from Friday night will.

Third, these debates, when all is said and done, are about landing the hay-maker either to your opponent or to yourself. We remember the knockout blows that the winner delivered or the gaffes by the loser. We don't remember the artfully constructed answers nor the depth of the argument. In that light, Friday night had nothing to offer, which I think favors the leader of the race. It also might have been Sen. McCain's best and only chance to do so.

It took a lot to get through Friday night's debate and I will probably have to read about the others. After they both spent 20 minutes NOT responding to how the financial crisis will impact their administration, I can't stand the thought of another 90 minutes of my life fluched down the drain when I could be watching Smokin' Aces on cable (again).

streiff said...

Posts are deleted for profanity, vulgarity, and for inanity.

I offer no apologies for this.

Robert Shriber said...

Obama is up 8 points and this is before the debate. Please for the sake of our country replace Palin.

Robert Shriber said...

before the VP debate, I meant to say

M.R. Newman said...

I saw the debate with my brother-in-law who was on the fence. After the debate, specifically the foreign policy stuff, he decided he's voting for McCain.

I think different people will react differently to the debate, but I think those who genuinely watched it without bias will realize McCain did a great job and Obama did fine, just not spectacularly.

Also, those who think Obama won -- remember that half the number of people expected to view the debates actually did. The debates comparred to the first Dole-Clinton debate of 1996 with the amount of viewers.

Robert Schiber said...


My concern is the VP debate. Palin comes of sort of cute and silly when she is asked real questions:

How can this help McCain's campaign in the debates.

She must be replaced.,

Robert Shriber said...

Here is a shorter link ( just cut and paste) clearly this woman will sink us :

Mister D. said...

"She must be replaced."

Replaced with whom,then?
Seeing how you know so much,please impart us with your "wisdom".

Mister D. said...

If you want Palin replaced,then perhaps Biden should be replaced,as well. He's a veritable gaffe machine.Telling people in wheelchairs to stand up,yeah,he's a perfect pick.

"Time wounds all heels."-Groucho Marx

anotherwatcher said...

For the record there is prohibitions on replacing a VP after the conventions.

sczepp said...

To replace a Veep pick would be dreaful and a shot in the foot. There is nothing wring with having Gov.Palin on the ticket and watch Thursday night as she dances around Senator Biden. He is a pull string if I ever seen one. By the way the debate the other night was dull and put me to sleep. Neither candidate came out punching and Sen Obama did not call Sen McCain, Sen McCain. You need to show respect even agaisnt your politcal enemies who earned it. Shame on Obama.

Robert shriver said...

Palin is a bimbo and the Red Maryland optimistic hype talk is foolish. Palin wil be soundly stomped.

As a real Republican, I deserve better

Daniel said...


Excellent. Couldn't agree more.