Debate: Brilliant young crusader Obama crushes leathery “maverick”

No, not really. That’s the headline I was hoping to write. But now that you’re looking….

I only saw a small portion of the debate live, and that was via my PC, followed by lots of pre-recorded bits and piece later in the day. Based on that, I would have to join the consensus and call it basically a draw, with Obama “winning” because he seems to have won over more undecideds than McCain.

Both did well (or well enough) and both achieved their most necessary goals:

McCain showed he is basically in control of his faculties and bodily functions (the Palin selection made a lot of us wonder), and that he has a decent grasp of the issues.

Obama showed he can speak articulately without a teleprompter, and succeeded in coming off as an erudite, likable and trustworthy centrist. Personally, I don’t think this is the right time for a centrist, but here we are.

No matter what we thought about the debates, one inescapable conclusion all of us can agree on is that McCain’s behavior prior to the debates was unsettling, to say the least. Maybe “deranged” would be more like it. Canceling the debate on the grounds he’s needed for the economic emergency (he wasn’t) – such a dire emergency for an economy he just said was fundamentally sound?? Flip-flopping and doing the debate?? Canceling his appearance with Letterman at the last minute?? (I presume all of you have seen the hilarious Letterman responses. Talk about backfiring.)

There’s a reason why McCain seems to be losing his mind: The day of the debate and the day prior brought to the foreground the most galling and unforgivable of McCain’s excesses, namely the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Thanks to the interviews she held on TV, I no longer need to tell anyone why I feel she is unacceptable and even dangerous. She can tell you that in her very own words:

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

I want everyone to go over this sentence and savor each syllable:

But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too.

She has a list of talking points, and she is frantically trying to pluck the right one, but she jut can’t do it. She simply doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge or depth of understanding to play global politics. This is not a one-time fluke. If you check around, some of the most outspoken (and irritating) female conservative bloggers are saying Palin was and is an out-and-out disaster, and unfit for command.

But as always, I want to put the blame where it squarely lies – on McCain, not Palin. Like his temperamental on-again/off-again decision on the debates, his selection of this profoundly unqualified amateur underscores a dangerous predilection for shooting from the hip and thinking through the consequences later, if at all.

No complaints. Poison pill Palin is now McCain’s kiss of death, a very heavy albatross tied tight around his neck. As conservative Kathleen Parker says:

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”

When Couric pointed to polls showing that the financial crisis had boosted Obama’s numbers, Palin blustered wordily: “I’m not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who’s more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who’s actually done it?”

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.

If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.

…Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

I said within a day of her being named that she would self-destruct and take McCain down with her. One needn’t be a seer to predict the obvious, but I remain baffled as to why so many people actually saw her as an asset, as a great choice to possibly be president of the United States. Aside from the announcement’s surprise effect, it was clear from the first that this was going to be a catastrophe. Still, I’m sure it was purely coincidence that McCain’s first suggestion was to cancel the vice-presidential segment and replace it with one of the postponed presidential debates.

Read the Catie Kouric interview again. Better yet, watch the whole thing. Imagine what’s going on in McCain’s head as he visualizes her standing up in front of a hundred million people and matching wits with Biden. As he looks at the Couric interview, does he think he made the best possible decision? Do any of you?

Update: As The Duck presciently noted back almost a month ago in this comment, this was sooo predictable:

Meanwhile, the big story here, as stated earlier, is about McCain, not Palin. Watching them scramble now to vet her is kind of amusing and definitely pathetic. They fucked up with their first major decision, and now much of the election going forward will be about defending Palin. Will this make her a sympathetic figure? To some. But in the light of America’s economic catastrophe, two wars, lack of health insurance, rising unemployment and in general a country deep in the shitter, it’s just a distracting sideshow that will further keep McCain from articulating why he would make the better president.

Truer words were never spoken.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 56 Comments

McCain has lost the election for himself, and he had at least a fighting, if difficult, chance of winning before his idiotic choice of Palin.

He took a gamble and lost. But given his chances he had to gamble in some way. Trying to play it safe wouldn’t have helped. Lieberman and Romney would have been worse (automatic GOP in-fighting). Some of those other/former governors might have been an idea. Was there a credible woman or non-white possibility? Two white men against Obama might have looked too conservative.

But, no, with the financial crisis the voters would have been focused on the economy and Obama wins hands down there – that has boosted his campaign to the point where a safer VP wouldn’t have helped McCain enough.

September 28, 2008 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

So I guess Palin out of all the Republicans on the planet was the only possible choice. Kay Bailey Hutchinson would have been a much smarter gamble. This wasn’t a gamble, it was an act of suicide. It would have been much more sane to gamble by picking another conservative white guy or woman, and then hoping Obama would screw up. Picking Palin was stupid, reckless, inexcusable, asinine, deranged and outrageous and it will be studied for years to come as a textbook example of political insanity. And worse.

September 28, 2008 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

So I guess Palin out of all the Republicans on the planet was the only possible choice.

No, I was asking – who were the other choices? I heard Hutchinson’s name before now you mentioned it.

another conservative white guy

That wouldn’t have been a gamble – it would have been middle of the road.

hoping Obama would screw up

As much as you dislike Palin, Obama screwing up would either work or not. I don’t believe that he would make a mistake of a kind that would have boosted McCain-Hutchinson to win but not McCain-Palin. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

September 28, 2008 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

I don’t dislike Palin at all. I just think she’s a birdbrain and an unfortunate victim of sexism who gives bat-shit crazy answers to reporters’ questions and has become the laughingstock of America. McCain had no right to put her in this situation, which he did, as you yourself acknowledge, because he needed a woman. You said he needed “a credible” woman and that’s where he so grandly fucked up. I kind of feel sorry for Palin, but then again I kind of don’t because she epitomizes Teh Stoopid by not realizing instantly that this was a desperate and losing gambit that would inevitably have a tragic ending and destroy her reputation forever. Know Thyself, as the maxim goes, and she should have known she was getting in way, way, way over her head. But as stated many times, it’s McCain I now dislike, not Palin. She is more victim than perpetrator, though that doesn’t make her any less of a birdbrain.

September 28, 2008 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

There is no honour when bush is elected twice. Yes, stolen maybe, but irrelevant. Birdbrain is more of a symptom than cause of the malaise. Not her fault they thought folks would be willing to swallow more regurgitation of “bat-shit crazy” ideology.

September 29, 2008 @ 1:32 am | Comment

Palin was a brilliant pick 🙂 She represents me perfectly and with out her I dont even think I would be voting or at least not out there campainging for McCain. what a brilliant move

October 20, 2008 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

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