I’ll spare you my take on those by the way. You watched ’em and have your own opinion. In general I thought McCain did better than I would have expected, yet the polls seemed to have decided on the side of Obama. I am happy and will leave it at that. But I do wish to address one subject that stuck out, and I believe much can be made of this point point in upcoming days.
McCain touts himself as the Maverick, the man who bucks his own party and reaches across the aisle to embrace Democrats in a determined effort to effect bipartisan agreement on important legislation. For many the argument is not with this assessment, but whether McCain any longer actually does this or rather is it a thing of his past, long discarded in his singleminded drive to achieve this personal goal.
I question the entire idea at all, frankly and I’ll tell you why. McCain says he has a long history of reaching across the aisle. What does this mean? If it means that McCain is willing to embrace anyone who agrees with his point of view on any given subject, then indeed he does. But that is not bipartisanship at all in my book. What McCain actually does, is say that when I have made up my mind, I don’t have any problems with any Democrat who is willing to accede to my opinion coming on board. But this is not at all what reaching across the aisle means.
It means, that one is willing to say, “Look, we have important fundamental differences, but lets look where we agree, and attempt to build bridges across the areas we don’t agree.” That is bipartisanship as I see it. McCain does not do this. And the proof of that is in the debate last night.
Obama was criticized by some for being too agreeable. He started off too many sentences with “John and I agree on. . . .or I think John is right on. . . .” He wasn’t combative enough, so they say. But is this not exactly what a bipartisanship approach looks like? Do you convince someone to change their views or even consider doing that if you don’t soften them up with a few “I agree with you on this and this” remarks?
Now of course, no one expected McCain to change his mind. But Obama was about the notion of setting an example, a presidential example, I might add, that this is the way that conciliatory negotiations go forward. You do not negotiate with someone by continually saying “You’re naive, or you don’t seem to understand, or you don’t seem to get it.” These are belligerent words and guaranteed to make your opponent dig in his heels. They are not the words of a “reacher across the aisle” kinda guy. Not a uniter, but a divider.
So it seems to me that the best case against McCain’s notion that he is the reformer who can reach out to the other side and foster agreement is to bury him in his own words and actions. He made attempts to bully last night. He continually claimed that Obama was unable to grasp concepts, that he didn’t obviously know important things that he McCain already knew. He attempted to paint Obama as some inexperienced and naive child who was in over his head. It is about as far from diplomacy as one can get.
His entire body language was combative. He hunched away from Obama, refused ever to look him in the eye, stared glaringly at the moderator. He grinned smarmily when he thought he had an answer to knock down Obama’s point. He was, in a word, rather snarky, though they called it feisty.
Apparently the American people were not impressed. McCain, so I understand, did poorly with women who perhaps disliked the manner of McCain, and thought Obama a gentleman, quick to give a compliment and always willing to agree with a good point. Surely McCain must have agreed with something Obama said, yet he never once acknowledged that. Does that come off as truthful or merely gamesmanship? I would argue the latter.
It may be for this reason that the majority believe Obama won the debate. Agreed, I think it was close, and so did those polled, but Obama was still given the win, and the voter is the only one who counts. Pundits see things somewhat differently no doubt.
I’m sure McCain’s caretakers are befuddled. I’m sure they thought they won, McCain was literate and didn’t bumble around, though I guess he got a few names wrong. Still, he did well I thought. But as these things go, substance is never quite the issue. It’s appearances and Obama clearly it seemed was more Presidential, whatever that means to you or anyone.
I simply wonder what will happen next time. McCain will undoubtedly try a different ploy. Last night’s did not work. He has painted himself into a corner now with the bailout in addition. He said “sure” to the question of whether he would be voting for the bill when it came to that. No shocking refusal to upset everything at the last moment now. Unless he wants to be branded as flipping once again.
Most suggested that Obama needed not to win, but to weather the storm. He did that. And he looked the part, sounded the part, and was the real bipartisan candidate to boot.
Stay tuned for the circus that will be Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Even the ultra right “National Review Online” is calling for her to withdraw before she destroys McCain’s campaign completely. Nothing but another McCain mistake it seems. There are so many these days, it’s hard to keep track.