Commentary Magazine


Barack Obama and Bill Clinton

During the earlier debates, I thought Obama was skillful, but sometimes lost. When he didn’t know a topic, he just punted (remember his rambling answer on Russia during the last debate). But tonight he seems to be at his logical, calm, rhetorical best. What strikes me is how different he is from candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton was a folksy, at ease, and hugely knowledgeable debater. But every statement from Clinton always seemed wrapped in a veneer of insincerity. Even when he knew a topic cold, you couldn’t really be persuaded that he believed what he was saying. His criticism of George H.W. Bush always had an edge. Obama is very different. Sometimes he seems out of his depth. He doesn’t show his cards. Listening to him, I’m left wondering what he would actually do as president since he relies on a lot of uncontroversial, good government bromides. But he seems more serious, less angry, and more trustworthy than Clinton. In these times, that makes him a better debater.

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