Did you hear that? That’s the death of the conservative stranglehold on US elections. Whatever happens let me note for the record that Obama’s steadfast refusal to stoop to McCain’s level has been the best show of leadership yet. Check that: Obama’s campaign should erase any doubts about this man’s ability to lead.
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-=[ The Debate II ]=-
“Perception is everything.”
— Me *grin*
Okay, so I’ll start with the now common observation of the debate: McCain has yet to mention the middle class during the course of two nationally televised debates.
I will get back to why this is an important point in a moment, but first, allow me to contextualize.
With the Market shedding off billions of dollars earlier in the day, the two presidential candidates squared off in the second of three debates in front of a nation at a point in time where the middle class is worried. It was a moment in time calling for leadership, for innovate vision, gravitas.
One candidate rose to the task, while the other flailed about pathetically.
Why should the fact that McCain has failed to utter the phrase middle class be important. The will to call someone by his/ her name or recognizing a group verbally is a powerful indicator of an individual’s mindset. As a Latino, I know what it’s like to be dismissed — not be recognized. The great African-America writer, Ralph Ellison wrote The Invisible Man highlighting how it felt to be a black man in the Jim Crow era. As a public speaker I am also sensitive to the role of recognition in communication. McCain has consistently failed to recognize the middle class or to call Obama by his name. For me, that was a turning point in the debate.
McCain also bungled an African-American man’s name in answering his question, making McCain 0-2 in appropriately recognizing people of color. Add the middle class and he was 0-3 for the “Joe Six-Packs” ::wink:: of the world.
I am going to use a couple of boxing metaphors, so stop reading now if you don’t want to get sick. LOL
The most beautiful, most poetic boxer I have ever seen in person was the Puerto Rican boxer Wilfredo Benitez. Benitez, who won his first title as a minor (he lied about his age), was a thinking man’s boxer, one of the greatest counter-punchers in the history of the game.
Excuse, me I just got hard… !
Watching Obama’s performance last night I was reminded of Benitez’ art. The best part of the debate was the masterful counterpunching by Obama. After McCain called Obama “that one,” refusing to use his name and coming off as a peevish old man, Obama came back with:
“Now, Sen. McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and, you know, I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible.”
At this point, McCain put out that grimace he calls a smile and said (in one of a series of attempts at humor that fell flat), “Thank you very much!” Very smug, full of himself.
Now here’s the beauty of the counter punch. At this point, Obama became serious and came out with a series of blows that took McCain for a loop (please look at McCain’s facial expression, it’s priceless!). Obama responded, stepping all over McCain’s clumsy attempt at humor:
“Sen. McCain, this is the guy who sang, ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,’ who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of ‘speaking softly.’
This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, ‘Next up, Baghdad.’
So I agree that we have to speak responsibly and we have to act responsibly.”
McCain never recovered from that exchange. Throughout the rest of the evening he looked foolish and ill prepared and ill tempered — ill suited as a leader.
In McCain’s defense, he has nothing to run on. His history as a trickle-down-voodoo-economics advocate takes the economy away from him. His health care plan will tax the working stiff’s health benefits as income. His determination to increase the tax cuts to the very wealthy shows him as beholden to monied interest. In short, he has no platform to run on, so it was easy for Obama to take him apart last night, even in McCain’s preferred town hall atmosphere.
It’s no wonder then, that the McCain camp (and their mindless groupies) are stuck on character assassination. They have no platform to run on.
There were two more points that I found compelling. One was the responses to the question whether health care is a right or a responsibility. Here Obama spoke eloquently and personably of his mother having to die with the indignity of fighting with insurance companies to get the care she needed. Obama unequivocally pronounced healthcare a moral imperative — a right — and in that way, aligned us with the rest of the free world. McCain called it a responsibility and then went off on a misleading diatribe on Obama’s plan. McCain’s assertion that Obama would fine those not on healthcare has no basis in fact.
In the end, Obama left off with a vision of hope for a future where our children could benefit from the same opportunities that allowed him to rise from food stamps to Harvard. McCain left us with an appeal to our reptilian brains — be very scared, he seemed to be saying. “We need a steady hand at the tiller,” he said in ominous tones.
Well, people are already scared, John! Duh!
The irony is that McCain’s only substantive stance on the economy was another bailout. It isn’t a bad idea per se, we should’ve passed that idea instead of the bailout for the fat cats, but how well do you think the voodoo economic zombies of the far right will take to that socialization of debt?
Furthermore, if McCain was really down with people like me, where was he before the $700 billion Wall St. Welfare Queens bailout package? This was an attempt to gamble — a pathetic grasping at straws from a man who’s campaign is steadily coming apart.
On the one hand, a vision of hope and a better world for our children and ourselves. On the other, more of the same fear tactics and no vision for the future.
My overall impression was that McCain looked very uncomfortable and old, lumbering around the stage as he did all night. Obama, on the other hand, looked cool and collected, offering substantive responses and parrying McCain’s awkward bull rushes.
McCain offered some awkward moments of failed humor — talking about hair transplants, for example. Maybe at another time, another place, the American people would’ve welcomed some levity. But these are hard times, “my friend.”
Right about now, Palin and her witch doctor are probably trying to get bin Laden to release another video tape.