Flipping through the channels, one notices a great number of Obama supporters essentially conceding that McCain turned in a stronger performance, but claiming that it doesn’t really matter because to succeed McCain had to do more — he had to deliver a “knockout blow” or somesuch. This is a cynical line of argumentation.
If McCain had attempted to land such a blow during the debate — and there certainly were a few moments when he could have said something terribly unflattering of Obama — these same pundits would now be saying that McCain was obviously desperate and rattled and hopelessly trying to claw himself back into contention with Hail-Mary attacks. Please.
These things boil down to repeatable moments. The “I agree” sequence from Obama will be helpful to McCain and the Kissinger “Oh, not so fast” will also be handy. Obama did not cry, plead for mercy or forget the name of any world leader, so the MSM will be pleased. But you can tell that when they declare it a “tie” as many did their guy did not do well. And that footage on Ahmadinejad — deadly for Obama in Florida.
The other spin line being dropped tonight is that Obama, by not losing, won because foreign policy is not his issue; he had to look like a credible commander-in-chief and he succeeded. Obama did not hurt himself during this debate, it’s true, though I think it’s grading on a curve to say he looked like the credible C-in-C.
But it seems to me, based on what has actually been happening in this country over the past 96 hours, the only person who was really at risk in this debate was McCain. Since he said he wouldn’t leave Washington until there was a bailout deal, and then he did, and since his presence on Thursday itself became a controversial subject, a bad night for him — especially on the economy — might have been fatal. Instead, he put on a credible performance on the economy, and a powerful and commanding one on foreign policy.
The McCain on stage tonight is the McCain we’ve seen since the summer of 2007 — a candidate who seems able to draw on reserves of energy and focus just at those moments when he seems to have lost his footing and might be about to tumble off a cliff. In this respect, doing well in this debate was actually far more important for McCain than it was for Obama; his campaign was on the line, and Obama’s wasn’t.
In that respect, the existential respect, McCain really was the winner, because he lives to fight another day.
Speaking of Amanpour, John, she is going to heroic lengths to claim that Obama and Kissinger are best friends forever on how to deal with Iran. She even replayed the clip from the CNN roundtable a few days ago in which Kissinger says that there should be a diplomatic overture to Iran.
Then John King (who must be reading CONTENTIONS) broke in with the Kissinger quote you posted below. Ooops.
…just admitted she had a contemptuous giggle when McCain had trouble pronouncing Ahmadinejad. When Anderson Cooper pointed out that people get things wrong sometimes, she responded indignantly that if she mispronounced Ahmadinejad, she would get criticized. She would, and deservedly, considering the fact that she’s Persian. And married to the man who was the press spokesman for the Clinton State Department.
It didn’t take him long. On CNN, he said, our own commanders say that the surge was a tactic not a strategy.
Well, maybe Biden is aware of a higher ranking commander than David Petraeus.
To Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard:
“Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”
I suspect that in the coming days one of the most dominant — perhaps the most dominant — narrative to come out of this debate will be the number of times that Obama either agreed with McCain, or said that McCain was right. Even dedicated Obama partisans noticed. Chris Matthews just asked Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass, with a tone of incredulity, the following question:
“Why did your candidate agree so openly and relentlessly with his opponent tonight?”
It seems to be that he wasn’t nice enough to Obama. He was “scrunched over” on his podium, said Chris Matthews. He “seemed to lecture and be condescending” to Obama, said Gloria Borger. This is reminiscent of the line thrown out after the 2000 Senate debate between Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton in New York, when Lazio walked over to Clinton and tried to hand her a pledge to sign. The general line was that he had somehow been aggressive, invading her space, etc. That attack against Lazio stuck, in part because he was a man and she was a woman. Is it conceivable the MSM can get away with convincing people poor little Barack was dissed by mean ol’ John?
I made a joke earlier about how McCain’s performance indicates nobody should do much debate prep. Maybe it wasn’t a joke. McCain’s ability to pivot and move around easily through the issues he knows well was clearly helped by the fact that he hadn’t spent a week with people pumping one-liners in his ear and telling him how best to frame an issue or approach a discussion. He did what he did tonight largely through intuition and knowledge, and he may have created a new model for preparation — don’t overload yourself. Go in fresh.
That I really miss the old MSNBC? I just flipped over there and it was David Gregory pretending that he’s a news anchor, instead of the good old days when Olbermann and Matthews were running a press operation for Obama. The old MSNBC was both entertaining and honest. That’s hard to pull off. Now it’s neither.
This was McCain’s night. After a slow start talking about the financial bailout, McCain put on a remarkable stage show, parading his knowledge of foreign affairs and his 30 years of visiting leaders and faraway places. His recall of names and places was impressive. So much for the “out-of-touch” argument. He repeatedly called out Obama for his failure to visit countries, hold hearings, or speak out on the largest issues of our times. At other times, he scolded Obama as naïve, irresponsible, and out of his depth. Obama spent the bulk of his time trying to respond, trying to correct the record, or simply saying “me too.” And then McCain came back, saying that Obama simply doesn’t understand.
“I have a long record.” This was McCain’s oft-repeated theme. It implicitly refuted Obama’s efforts to tie McCain to eight years of George Bush. After a week of confusion and gimmicks, McCain showed up tonight far more focused and prepared than anyone could possibly have imagined.
Only the most devoted partisan could deny it was a very, very strong outing for John McCain. On foreign policy he was devastating — making clear how much more resolute and experienced he is. On the bailout and domestic policy he more than held his own. He may have climbed back into this race. For Obama he I think did not answer key questions on the surge and on direct meetings with Ahmadinejad. I imagine the McCain camp is hugely relieved.
It’s smart for him to get fuzzy and patriotic but then he sort of ruins it by saying kids around the world don’t feel as warmly toward us. No, I think their liberal parents in Western Europe feel that way. Kids want to come to America ‘casue it is the coolest place in the world.
He didn’t do a half bad job. He was not intrusive and he got a decent amount of interaction. And was he “fair”? Perfectly so, I think. If the other moderators are as good the voters will be well served.
Jim Geraghty has been counting, and reports that Obama has said this six times tonight (about McCain, not Podhoretz)
The McCain camp gets out the “You’re Right” John video ad already.
McCain gets a boost when he mentions nuclear power and domestic drilling.
Russian nukes are going to slip into Islamist terrorists’ hands? Seems like Russia has an even better reason (ever heard of Chechnya, Senator?) than the U.S. to protect against this possibility.
Frankly, I’d be more concerned about a failed state falling into the hands of terrorists. Yet as McCain has correctly pointed out all night, Obama was prepared to let them have Iraq pre-”surge.”
…of inserting into every foreign policy response a combination of foreign leader names, geographic places, and anecdotes about things that happened a decade or two ago. He is making Obama look like a lightweight without having to say he’s a lightweight.