New Sport: Synchrozined Presidental Debating

The proof, they say, is in the pudding:

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PC/Mac Musical

Evil Dead meets West Side Story meets Anchor Man in this ridiculously funny (and cartoon gory) take on the age-old PC vs. Mac debate.

The Real Star of Last Night’s Debate is a Modern Day Super Mario

A quick assessment of last night’s debate: McCain failed to persuade anyone of anything but that he can get flustered and confused with the best of them…Obama continued to be the coolest kitty in the cathouse, floating like a butterfly but failing to sting like a bee…and Bob Schieffer proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to be this year’s best moderator, taking charge and holding the candidates to the questions as best as possible while facilitating a spirited debate.

But, the real star of last night’s debate, for better or worse, was “Joe The Plumber.” Senator McCain tried to sandbag Obama by citing a conversation Obama recently had with an Ohio constituent who was trying to own his own plumbing business after 15 years in the trade. It was a brilliant attempt by McCain to try and show that Obama’s economic policies are out of touch with the middle-class voter or – more aptly – that Obama’s policies would actually make it more difficult for middle-class people to ascend to the American dream of owning their own businesses. At the same time, he hoped to prove that Obama’s policies would actually hurt small businesses across the board – from job creation and compensation to healthcare.

The problem with America’s most heroic plumber since Super Mario and his anemic brother Luigi is that McCain’s attack became laughable . First, he overused him. Maybe he’s a cousin of the oft-mentioned Joe Six-Pack, but Joe The Plumber quickly became a tired source of conversation. Which brings up the second reason: McCain misrepresented Obama’s policies. McCain looked utterly stunned when Obama replied that the fine for not offering healthcare in Joe The Plumber’s business would be “Zero” (because the plan has an exemption for businesses of that size). McCain and his Joe analogy suddenly lost credibility, meaning that every time Joe The Plumber bobbed back to the top of the bowl, he floated there idly with the stench of a failed strategy looming.

Joe The Plumber is going to become a political term for the next generation (at least that’s my prediction). Sadly, it may also be a politcal legacy for Senator McCain that he wishes he could just flush away.

Obama: Where’s the Passion?

There were two moments in Tuesday night’s debate where Senator Obama almost made the debate memorable. Almost. 

One was the question on national service and sacrifice, where Obama came right to the edge of saying that Americans were going to have to tighten their belts when it came to energy use. But he balked and parsed and slowed down:

You know, a lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11 and where you were on that day and, you know, how all of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer, but to make us a better country and a more unified country.

And President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, “Go out and shop.”

That wasn’t the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for.

And so it’s important to understand that the — I think the American people are hungry for the kind of leadership that is going to tackle these problems not just in government, but outside of government.

And let’s take the example of energy, which we already spoke about. There is going to be the need for each and every one of us to start thinking about how we use energy.

I believe in the need for increased oil production. We’re going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling. It includes telling the oil companies, that currently have 68 million acres that they’re not using, that either you use them or you lose them.

We’re going to have to develop clean coal technology and safe ways to store nuclear energy.

But each and every one of us can start thinking about how can we save energy in our homes, in our buildings. And one of the things I want to do is make sure that we’re providing incentives so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea, making sure that you are able to weatherize your home or make your business more fuel efficient.

And that’s going to require effort from each and every one of us.

And the last point I just want to make. I think the young people of America are especially interested in how they can serve, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in doubling the Peace Corps, making sure that we are creating a volunteer corps all across this country that can be involved in their community, involved in military service, so that military families and our troops are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America.

That’s something that all of us have to be involved with and that requires some leadership from Washington.

 

The other was something he actually said on healthcare, the words were stirring but the passion was lacking:

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let’s start with that.

Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that….

He then went on to the standard talking points on healthcare. Do you remember that moment in the debate? It took me a long time too. Because Obama strolled the stage reciting these lines with none of the oratorical vigor or emotional connection necessary to make his point memorable. The story of his mother could be the crucible in which his healthcare policy was born, instead its just another bland talking point. 

The Obama campaign is looking to stay steady in the last few weeks. I admire that. But he needs to be allowed to get some emotion going. He needs to bring humanity to his positions. I happen to agree with many of them, but if I didn’t there was nothing in that debate performance that would have convinced me. 

I know they’re talking points, but would a little passion kill ya?

Town hall? Yeah right!

Three quick things:

Format was totally useless

Brokaw was frustrated at the equality of his useless-ness.

If Obama was winning (so say the polls) he still is.

Back to the honeymoon!

Captain Kirk versus Jean-Luc Picard

I was thoroughly impressed with last night’s debate. As my gushing post last night attests. I’m not calling it a win for either candidate, as those voters who have made up their mind are likely to hold their position, and those who were undecided, probably still are. But there was something subtle, working in the background that is quite striking. The generational divide between John McCain and Barack Obama was fully visible. Not in their physical demeanor or in their language selections, but in their worldviews and their attempts to communicate them. I call it Captain Kirk versus Jean-Luc Picard. 

That’s not to say that Obama looked young and McCain looked old. McCain was quick-witted and fluid behind the podium, Obama was professiorial. Their styles mitigated their age gap in terms of presentation. But McCain’s discussion of the world, especially that outside of US borders was one of a man that has seen conflict. His convictions are dyed into his wool and he trusts his instincts in a way no other candidate this year has been able to articulate. He looks at Vladamir Putin and sees his Klingon enemy. He knows Putin is up to no good and he’ll do whatever it takes to stop him. John McCain will follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell himself if he has too, you can almost hear him yelling “KHAAAANNNNN!” on the way to Afghanistan.

The downside is McCain’s repeated assertion, which took on various tones: Obama doesn’t get it. He called Obam

a’s worldview not only naive but dangerous. This wasn’t spin, and as far as McCain was concerned, it wasn’t hyperbole. He looks at Obama and sees a dangerous young man too inexperienced and too naive to hold the title commander in chief. You could almost sense his frustration, at one point, as he exclaimed that his opponent, “doesn’t get it!” 

Obama for his part, played the part of learned man. And attempted to, I think successfully, counter McCain’s emotional moral convictions with cool-headed, sober, almost academic ones. This is a generational difference. He was our Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The NEXT Generation. Obama is cool, professorial, incredibly learned. The negotiator. Captain Kirk is one to floor it through and asteroid field, beam down to the planet in question and punch the bad guy in the face. Picard is one to go through the same asteroid field at 1/4 impulse power. Find the planet in peril, and call a meeting of his crew at the conference table to discuss options and assess the best plan going forward. Then using science and skilled negotiation, back their opponent into a corner and force him/her into submission. 

The thing is the last eight years have been way more Kirk than Picard here in the US. While I think McCain is way more capable than our dearly (almost) departed W, working from the gut isn’t gonna cut it for another 4 years. Dealing with problems by instinctively cutting taxes and intimidating rivals only works for so long. I think it’s time for a next generation style leader. We need to hand the reigns of the Enterprise over to our Captain Picard, and let a new style of leadership try its hand at the daunting problems we’re facing both home and abroad.

A Real Debate!

When these two Senators became their respective party’s nominee, I was excited. I was hopeful that we would be able to see a real debate between two intelligent well-rounded candidates. An ugly general election cycle took over and we never had that civil campaign I think so many Americans longed for. Until tonight. 

Senators McCain and Obama took the stage tonight and actually debated policy. While at this moment there is endless talking-headery going on, these two men clearly and thoughtfully articulated their positions on the economy and on a wide array of foreign policy issues. Let me also take this chance to mention the venerated old news man, Jim Lehrer. His moderation and easy going way between these two candidates provided the spot-on style and debate leadership I wish all news programs had. (In case you didn’t know, I am a rabid Newshour Watcher.)

Let me cut through what you will be hearing all night and all week. The debate was a tie and since Obama is ahead in the polls that means he won. I don’t know if that’s really the case or not. But I do know its rather irrelevant. I sat for 90 minutes and was throughly informed about the domestic plans and world view of these two men, one of whom will be our next president. That alone is something to be happy about.