07 October 2008

Debate #2: Not A Game Changer

I've always liked the town hall format when it comes to debates. For one thing, it somehow seems less formal watching the candidates strut around the stage palming their microphones like Don Ho at a national sales luau. But even more interesting are the questions posed by the audience. They are Americana and you just never know what they're going to ask. Will Chris whine about his lot in life and ask what the country will do to help him? Does Stephanie want to know if the candidates plan to bring down the cost of her chocolate addiction? And are either of these guys going to take away Alex's guns? You can always expect a couple of bizarre question that force the candidates to step outside practiced response and into the world of instinct and character . . . unless the questions are selected by Tom Brokaw.

There were reportedly millions of questions that were sent in for this debate. However, Brokaw decided to select questions that reflected the ground these candidates have been covering every single day for months: the economy, health care, Iraq, ZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.

I'm back.

The result: America had another opportunity to watch their stump speeches. Nothing new (except McCain's left turn concerning mortgage buy outs). Nothing groundbreaking.

To be honest, both candidates were pretty good; neither was great. And since Obama is currently leading in most polls, that fact plays in his favor. If he wants to win this thing, John McCain will need to spend the next few weeks hammering away at Obama's minuscule record and credibility while at the same time ensuring that his supporters do not listen to the media projections and head to the polls in November.

The only question that I found remotely interesting was the last. And on this one we owe a debt of gratitude to Al Gore for creating the internet, thus allowing Peggy of Amherst to deliver the best question of the debate. And if you didn't see the debate, trust me, that was a long time to wait for a single interesting question. (In fact, if I weren't writing this blog I probably would have switched the channel over to Nickelodeon where Dora and Boots were in quite a donnybrook with Swiper the fox).

So I'll close this post the same way the debate closed -- with Peggy's question and the full response of each candidate.

PEGGY: "What don't you know and how will you learn it?"

OBAMA: My wife, Michelle, is there and she could give you a much longer list than I do. And most of the time, I learn it by asking her.

But, look, the nature of the challenges that we're going to face are immense and one of the things that we know about the presidency is that it's never the challenges that
you expect. It's the challenges that you don't that end up consuming most of your time.

But here's what I do know. I know that I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for the fact that this country gave me opportunity. I came from very modest means. I had a single mom and my grandparents raised me and it was because of the help of scholarships and my grandmother scrimping on things that she might have wanted to purchase and my mom, at one point, getting food stamps in order for us to put food on the table.

Despite all that, I was able to go to the best schools on earth and I was able to succeed in a way that I could not have succeeded anywhere else in this country. The same is true for Michelle and I'm sure the same is true for a lot of you. And the question in this election is: are we going to pass on that same American dream to the next generation? Over the last eight years, we've seen that dream diminish.

Wages and incomes have gone down. People have lost their health care or are going bankrupt because they get sick. We've got young people who have got the grades and the will and the drive to go to college, but they just don't have the money. And we can't expect that if we do the same things that we've been doing over the last eight years, that somehow we are going to have a different outcome.

We need fundamental change. That's what's at stake in this election. That's the reason I decided to run for president, and I'm hopeful that all of you are prepared to continue this extraordinary journey that we call America.

But we're going to have to have the courage and the sacrifice, the nerve to move in a new direction. Thank you.

BROKAW: Sen. McCain, you get the last word. Sen. Obama had the opening. You're last up.

MCCAIN: Well, thank you, Tom. And I think what I don't know is what all of us don't know, and that's what's going to happen both here at home and abroad.

The challenges that we face are unprecedented. Americans are hurting tonight in a way they have not in our generation.

There are challenges around the world that are new and different and there will be different -- we will be talking about countries sometime in the future that we hardly know where they are on the map, some Americans.

So what I don't know is what the unexpected will be. But I have spent my whole life serving this country. I grew up in a family where my father was gone most of the time because he was at sea and doing our country's business. My mother basically raised our family.

I know what it's like in dark times. I know what it's like to have to fight to keep one's hope going through difficult times. I know what it's like to rely on others for support and courage and love in tough times. I know what it's like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbors and your fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight. That's what America's all about.

I believe in this country. I believe in its future. I believe in its greatness. It's been my great honor to serve it for many, many years.

And I'm asking the American people to give me another opportunity and I'll rest on my record, but I'll also tell you, when times are tough, we need a steady hand at the tiller and the great honor of my life was to always put my country first.

Thank you, Tom.


  1. DB said...

    McCain needed this one. I thought he would have rocked this debate as this has been played up as his territory. Though that expectation might have hurt him more his experience helped him. Though personally I was hoping for a knock out blow or a one-liner that will last for a generation of tv highlight, but again, was disappointed. Yes, that is right, I am more interested in the entertainment/historical factor than any substance. Not like we ever get substance anyways!

  2. Anonymous said...

    The fact that it was not a real town hall debate were people could ask interesting questions instead of pre-approved to the 10th degree safe questions is why McCain did not get a knock out punch last night. McCain dose better in a free flowing environment and there was nothing free flowing about the debate last night.

  3. DB said...

    The reason McCain's town halls are so strong is the same reason that Obama's speeches are so popular...because they are filled with supporters in a setting each is comfortable with.

    There is no way to have that kind of town hall with McCain and Obama both in attendance. McCain might be strong in them, but he doesn't have to face rabidly partisan questions about things like Keating, etc. Obama would have the same problems with Ayers. Neither guy would want to engage in that kind of town hall on national TV evident by the fact that they both agreed to the rules of this debate..

  4. Khaki Elephant said...

    DB, I don't know if McCain needed this one, but it sure would have helped. And the entertainment value was about equal to watching fruit ripen. I could hardly keep my eyes focused.

    Johnny, you've hit on the key. McCain usually shines in town halls because they are unscripted dialogues. But this was little more than a standard debate format with standard questions. It's just that different faces voiced the qustions. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment!