Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama Best on Iraq, Lame on Economy

Initially I was pleased when I realized the Jim Lehrer was the moderator (much better than any of the random network guys, sorry dearly departed Tim Russert, you were not missed tonight) and that he was leading off with a question about the economy.

To me, Obama shoulda hit that one out of the park. But he couldn't and didn't. He couldn't because he isn't prepared to oppose an unprecedented $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. And although he tried to hit McCain pretty hard on supporting the Bush policies of deregulation that led to the massive failure, he alternated between campaign buzzwords like "wall street and main street" and a lot of inside washington jargon. He never really took it to McCain in this area. I woulda liked a bit of "John, this financial crisis is your fault. You bought the idea that big financial institutions would thrive without anybody making sure they were making good deals and you were wrong. And now you want to bail them out for their mistakes. Well, who is going to bail out the people who lost their homes?"

Obama tried to say that stuff, but he said it in such a way that my mother, who is an avid political watcher, literally fell asleep in the middle of one of his sentences. I've said it before, my mother is a reliable bellweather of what the average mainstream Democrat is thinking. It is not a good sign if she falls asleep when Obama is talking.

McCain on the other hand was feisty and plain-speaking on the economy and managed to push Obama into a corner by focussing on his earmarks and on McCain's record of weeding out pork barrel projects. The fact that Obama's 890 million dollars of day care centers on the south side or bridges in the loop pails in comparison to a $700 billion bailout cannot be said, and McCain knows it. The average person thinks hundreds of millions of dollars means something. And it does, but not in the context of a federal budget (jeez, it barely does in California).

Obama regained his footing and beat the crap out of McCain on Iraq. He hammered on "you were wrong," repeatedly and really scored points in my book. For the first time, I really got a creepy feeling about how personal the Iraq war is to McCain because of his experiences in Vietnam. I used to think that might be a good thing. Now I think that he might drag on the war for "a hundred years" like some weird ancient zorro searching the countryside to avenge his dead father--he repeatedly made reference to knowing what it was like to lose and not wanting to go through that again.

Woah! This really sets off alarm bells for me. Who the hell cares whether McCain wants to go through that again? Could the decisions about the war possibly be prosecuted on the basis of what's right for the country and world? How about that?

My mom (see above) was rightly appalled by McCain's creepy condescending tone towards Obama--the repeated references to his "naivite" made him seem bitter and mean. The fact that she noticed it makes me hopeful that others will, but maybe only yellow dog dems.

I found it particularly telling that McCain scolded Obama for "saying out loud" that he might invade Pakistan. And there was another instance later when he also seemed to hint that he would share Obama's strategy and thoughts secretly but that he thought it was somehow naive or lame to share those thoughts with the citizenry. So we need to trust McCain like we trusted Bush to take care of us and do the right thing, even though he doesn't trust us to share in advance what kind of thinking he would have on key foreign policy matters? Now who's naive?

Finally, I think Obama misses an opportunity when he just sort of shares McCain's view of Russia/Georgia. I know he is trying to put the initial weakness of his response behind him, but I think there's a larger point and opportunity that's being missed, to wit, how can we expect Russia to respect international boundaries and law, when we haven't respected international boundaries and law? By acting virtually unilaterally in prosecuting his war in Iraq, the Bush administration has destroyed the United States' credibility and ability to play a constructive role in getting Russia to behave. Obama is clearly the President who would be better able to declare a new era of decency and rule of law in foreign policy and restore the US to a point where it could be taken seriously in this context.


Mark Stell Blogs said...


Great recap of the first presidential debate. I have to admit, I'm in Lee's (your mom) camp when it comes to snoozing through Obama's 'don't rock the boat' rhetorical tenor. I did drift off once or twice when Obama droned on ... it was so disappointing.

Question: Where's the change? As an original Hillary supporter I grew tired of democrats who complained that Hillary was 'old school,' or that she lacked the 'new vision' we need to rebound from 8 years of G.B. I realize Obama is trying to woo beyond his base ... but come on!

Hey, I just googled the following question: "Why did Russia invade Georgia?" I wonder if either of our presidential candidates have ever done something similarly simple?

I too feel 'alarm bells,' Sara. Only a few months ago I felt great hope for the future of our country. After the debate last night I'm again worried. McCain is a time bomb waiting to explode and what joy we'll have with President Palin calling the shots. (Somebody please close/protect the Library of Congress!) Maybe Obama will follow through with his progressive vision to rein in Republican abuse once he's in the White House, but I no longer take it for granted.

Hey ... I just watched a Congressional Hearing (Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - and your pal Donna Edwards did a great job nailing the anti-labor leader of the National Mediation Board. She may be a friend of Sara's but she is a heroine to me!

Happy blogging!
Mark Stell

RobinHood said...

Obama is ahead and playing prevent defense. He was playing it safe, because he wants America to feel safe with this young (gifted and black) and unknown commodity.

All the polls after, and in days since showed that he has picked up many voters. Part of that is the economic crisis, and the Dem brand being better on that, but part of it is the "you're ahead, don't screw up" strategy.

Hope Biden got the memo too. Make sure that Gov. Palin gets plenty of time to talk. Ask her questions Joe, and let her talk!